When a Personal Injury Exacerbates a Pre-Existing Medical Condition – The "Egg Shell Skull" Theory

Nancy B. Alston

Many people live their lives with pre-existing medical conditions such as: Bad knees; degenerative conditions in the back, previous broken bones that have healed, etc.

Are you entitled to recover for damages in a personal injury accident when a pre-existing medical condition is exacerbated? Yes!

The Egg Shell Skull Theory

The Egg Shell Skull Theory goes something like this. Let’s say Humpty Dumpty, who has a skull as thin as an egg shell, is driving, and gets into a car accident that is not his fault. His skull being as thin as an egg shell shatters into a million pieces so that all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men could not put his head together again. Can Humpty Dumpty recover for his injuries considering the fact that he had a skull as thin as an egg shell, which is not normal for human beings? Yes!

The law of personal injury in a nutshell (not to be confused with egg shell) makes persons who are negligent, liable for injuries that they cause that are reasonably foreseeable. The case law on the subject has concluded that it is reasonably foreseeable that persons who are injured may have pre-existing conditions, or deformities, and that a negligent person must take the injured person as they find them. Hence Humpty Dumpty is entitled to a recovery even though is head is as thin as an egg shell.

Pre-Existing Conditions

I do many personal injury cases where a person suffers an injury due to the negligence of another, and the injury is actually diagnosed as a condition that existed prior to the accident, but was exacerbated or became symptomatic after the injury accident.

Many people who have pre-existing conditions learn to live with their conditions, are pain free notwithstanding their conditions, or have minimal discomfort due to their conditions. Some may even have a large amount of pain or loss of mobility due to their conditions.

These people are entitled to recover for their losses just like anyone else who is injured in a Personal Injury accident that is not their fault. Crafty insurance company adjusters and insurance company lawyers will try to limit their liability by claiming that the injured person was not injured at all in an accident, and that they had a pre-existing medical condition which cuts off or limits their liability.

Some persons with pre-existing medical conditions may not even seek legal advice or retain a lawyer after they are injured, because they figure that they already had the condition before the accident in the first place. This is a huge mistake.

The bottom line is that any person who is injured due to the negligence of another, and who has a pre-existing medical condition, is entitled to recover compensatory damages that were caused by the accident. If a pre-existing medical condition or disability is made worse or symptomatic as a result of the accident you are entitled to recover.

It takes a good personal injury lawyer, who knows the law to get you what you are entitled to.

By Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq., © 2007

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