The "Eggshell Plaintiff" Rule

08 Jun 2010


Posted by Norman

While reading through various personal injury cases and websites, a term I kept coming across was the 'Walking On Eggshells" rule.

I decided for this blog post to comment on the "Walking On Eggshells" rule as I wondered if there were many people out there who were unfamiliar with the term.

In personal injury law, the compensation awarded in a personal injury case is based on the injuries sustained in the accident. However, many times the defendant in a personal injury case will try and claim that the plaintiff already had the injury before the accident occurred in order to try and get out of paying the compensation or lessen it, as defendants are not responsible for preexisting conditions.

However, defendants in personal injury case are responsible for incremental injuries. This means that if someone who is more susceptible to an injury than others, the defendant is still responsible for the injury.

For example, if you were to punch someone in the head and the person had a weak skull and suffered more serious damage than if you had punched someone else, you are still liable for the more severe injuries caused, even if you were unaware of the person's weakened skull.

This rule has become known as the "eggshell plaintiff rule".

In New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction 13-1802, it makes this rule clearer:

If you find that, before any injury in this case, plaintiff was already impaired by a physical or emotional condition, plaintiff is entitled to compensation for the aggravation or worsening of the condition, but not for elements of damages to the extent they were already being suffered. However, damages are to be measured without regard to the fact plaintiff may have been unusually susceptible to injury or likely to be harmed. The defendant is said to "take the plaintiff as he finds [him] [her]," meaning that the defendant, if liable, is responsible for all elements of damages caused by the defendant's conduct even if some of the plaintiff's injury arose because the plaintiff was unusually susceptible to being injured.

While this can still present a bit of a legal grey area in some personal injury cases, it is widely accepted that defendants are responsible for the incremental damages.

Hopefully this article has helped to clear up any confusion people unaware of the rule may have!

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