If you have a pre-existing condition and then sustain injuries due to another person’s negligence, the “thin skin rule” can be significantly important to your personal injury case. This legal principle protects vulnerable individuals from having the severity of their injuries used against them in court. Your Casper, Wyoming lawyer will be able to tell you more about how this rule applies in your case.
What Is the Thin Skin Rule?
This rule, also known as the eggshell skull rule or the eggshell doctrine, dictates that a defendant remains liable for the full extent of a plaintiff’s injuries, even if those injuries are more severe than what a typical person might experience in the same situation. This means that if you have a pre-existing condition, such as osteoporosis or a weakened immune system, and you suffer a more serious injury due to someone else’s negligence, the at-fault party cannot escape responsibility by arguing that your pre-existing condition contributed to the severity of your injuries.
Rationale Behind the Thin Skull Rule
The foundation of the eggshell skull rule are the principles of fairness and individual responsibility. It acknowledges that people possess varying levels of health and susceptibility to injury, and thus a negligent party should not be able to avoid the consequences of their actions simply because the victim happened to be more vulnerable than the average person.
Challenges in Proving Damages
Proving damages in a personal injury case involving the eggshell doctrine can be challenging. The burden of proof lies with you, the plaintiff, and the key thing you must demonstrate is that the injuries you sustained are a direct result of the defendant’s actions. Your attorney must effectively show that, despite your pre-existing condition, the damages you are claiming are a direct result of the defendant’s negligence and not natural or coincidental progression of your existing condition.
For your attorney, proving the extent of your injuries and what you should be compensated for will involve gathering and presenting strong medical evidence that can demonstrate the link between the incident and your injuries. The problem is not so much about showing that you were injured, but in demonstrating that it was specifically the accident which caused your injuries. That is typically what you can expect the other side to argue.
The Process in a Thin Skin Case
1. Establishing Liability and Causation
Establishing liability and causation is a crucial step in cases involving the Thin Skin Rule. Proving that the defendant’s negligence directly caused your injuries is essential. This means demonstrating a clear link between the defendant’s actions and your injuries. In a Thin Skin case, this often involves detailed medical analysis to distinguish between the injuries caused by the accident and those related to pre-existing conditions.
For example, if you have a history of back problems and sustain further back injuries in a car accident, it’s necessary to show that the accident either caused new back injuries or worsened your existing condition.
2. Getting Expert Testimony
Expert testimony is often key to winning in Thin Skin Rule cases. Medical experts can offer crucial insights into how an accident may have exacerbated a pre-existing condition or caused additional injuries. These experts, typically physicians with expertise in the relevant medical field, provide detailed analyses of your injuries, how they relate to the incident, and the extent to which your pre-existing condition was a factor.
Their testimony helps the court understand the complex medical aspects of your case and the specific impact of the defendant’s negligence on your health.
3. Documenting Injuries and Treatments
Documenting your injuries and the treatment you undergo is another key aspect of handling a Thin Skin Rule case. This documentation includes medical records, treatment plans, progress notes, and expert opinions on your prognosis and future medical needs.
These records serve as evidence of the severity of your injuries and the necessary treatments, and they are crucial for calculating damages. It’s important to keep detailed records of all medical consultations, treatments, and related expenses, as these will form the foundation of your claim for compensation.
4. Calculating Damages
Calculating damages in these cases can be tough, given the need to consider both the immediate and the long-term effects of the injury on your life. Damages typically include medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases where the injury exacerbated your pre-existing condition, it’s also necessary to consider whether you’ll need additional medical care and support in the future or if you’ll need to find a new line of work.
5. Dealing With Insurance Companies
Dealing with insurance companies in Thin Skin Rule cases can be especially challenging, as insurers may be reluctant to acknowledge the full extent of your injuries when a pre-existing condition is involved. They might argue that your injuries were not entirely caused by the accident, or that your condition would have deteriorated irrespective of the incident.
It’s important to be prepared for these arguments and have a strong legal strategy to counter them. Your Casper, Wyoming lawyer will help you build an effective case to counter insurance company tactics.
Other Factors to Consider
Past court decisions can influence the outcomes of similar cases, as these precedents provide a framework for how courts interpret and apply the eggshell rule. An attorney must be well-versed in relevant case law to effectively argue how these precedents support your claim.
They must have knowledge of all previous cases with similar circumstances and be able to use these as a basis to argue for the applicability of the Rule in your situation. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer is very important here, and your lawyer needs to specifically have experience with Wyoming courts.
In Wyoming, comparative negligence plays a role in personal injury cases, including those involving the eggshell doctrine. Comparative negligence is the idea that if you, as the plaintiff, are partially at fault for the accident, your compensation may be reduced accordingly.
In Thin Skin cases, this can become a point of contention, especially if the defendant argues that your pre-existing condition contributed to the severity of the injuries. If the other side can successfully argue that you were 51% or more responsible, they don’t have to pay you anything. Even if they can only saddle you with 20% of the responsibility, that allows them to reduce their payment to you by 20%.
Here’s how such an argument might go: imagine that you are in a car accident, and you have had back issues for years. Thus, they will argue, you should have immediately realized you needed to get your back checked out. If you did not go straight to the hospital, or, if you did but then did not carefully follow all the medical advice you were given, the other side may argue that you have significantly contributed to your own injuries.
Find an Experienced Casper, Wyoming Lawyer
If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence, even if you have pre-existing conditions, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. Contact us today at the Ochs Law Firm
for a free consultation.