When someone is involved in an accident, he or she may have existing injuries or health conditions when the accident occurs. These conditions were not caused by the accident but were present before the crash happened. What happens when the accident aggravates your pre-existing injuries? Are you able to get compensation for that type of damage? Thankfully, yes.
The Thin Skull Rule
When a wrongdoer does harm or damage to someone else, he or she takes the victim “how they are.” The wrongdoer is supposed to provide compensation so that the person who was harmed can be returned to the physical and financial position that they had before the accident occurred. That means that if you had a prior health condition, the wrongdoer must compensate you for the aggravation of the pre-existing condition, but not for the original condition.
The rule is often referred to as the “thin skull” rule or the “eggshell plaintiff” rule. The idea behind the rule is that even if the victim is overly sensitive, the wrongdoer must pay for any damage caused. The eggshell skull reference means that even if the victim has some kind of condition that causes their head to be much softer than other skulls, the wrongdoer would still have to compensate for that damage. Just because the same type of blow would not have injured another person as much does not matter—compensation is determined by the actual victim and the facts of the particular case.
In 2013, the Ontario Supreme Court determined that this rule applied beyond physical ailments. It also pertained to mental damage as well. That is, if the victim was mentally frail and the accident caused more psychological damage to that particular person, the wrongdoer is still liable for that damage, even though it might be more severe for that specific victim compared to others.
The Crumbling Skull Rule
As a limitation to the thin skull rule, the “crumbling skull” rule states that if the pre-existing condition would have negatively affected the victim in the future anyway, the wrongdoer can take that into account when determining the appropriate compensation because of the accident. For example, if the victim already had a health condition that would have shortened his or her life, then they can account for that reality when determining how much damage the accident actually caused.
The crumbling skull rule is a significant limitation that prevents wrongdoers from overcompensating victims. It still goes back to the maxim that the wrongdoer should put the victim back in the position that they were before the accident—no more, no less.
The idea of “but for” causation is important as well. If the health condition would not have gotten worse but for the accident, then the wrongdoer would have to compensate for the aggravation of the health status. There is a causal link there that must be taken into account.
Preexisting Conditions and Accidents: A Summary
Even if you had a health condition before an accident, you could still recover damages for the aggravation of your pre-existing condition caused by the crash. The wrongdoer must put his or her victim back in the same place that they were before the accident occurred. To avoid overcompensating victims, the wrongdoer can consider what condition the victim would have been in even if the crash had not happened.
All of this means that even if you have a pre-existing health condition, that should not limit you in deciding whether to pursue a legal claim. You can still recover for the aggravation of your condition. Our team of personal injury lawyers can help you evaluate your options and work through your legal claim. Call today: 1-800-567-HURT.