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Thin-Skulled Personal Injury Victim: Legally Defined

In a previous blog post (see Pre-Existing Injuries in a Personal Injury Claim) the ‘thin-skulled’ plaintiff (otherwise known as the ‘egg-shell’ victim) was identified as an individual who, because of a unique medical condition or fragile body, is more susceptible to injury than the average person. Where a particular type of car accident, truck (“big-rig”) crash, motorcycle accident or other personal injury incident (such as a slip and fall or trip and fall) would do little to no harm to the average person, a thin-skulled plaintiff might receive substantial harm from it because of their increased susceptibility to injury. Should their diminished ability to take an impact result in an inability to receive reasonable and fair compensation for their injuries? Absolutely not, and California law provides protection for such an individual. The law is very clear: “The tortfeasor takes the person he injures as he finds him. If, by reason of some preexisting condition, his victim is more susceptible to injury, the tortfeasor is not thereby exonerated from liability.” (Rideau v. Los Angeles Transit Lines (1954). It does not do any good for the negligent party who caused the auto accident or other injury-causing event to argue that the average person, or anyone else for that matter, would not have suffered the injuries that the victim is now claiming. The court in Ng v. Hudson (1977) held, “That a plaintiff without such a [preexisting] condition would probably have suffered less injury or no injury does not exonerate a defendant from liability.” A typical scenario that routinely encounters the thin-skulled victim is a low-impact car accident, where the victim is rear-ended by the negligent party. At speeds of, for example, 5 m.p.h, the defense always argues that the impact was so minor that it could not possibly have caused the injuries that the victim is now claiming. While reasonable, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for the negligent party to assert such a claim without knowing whether the accident victim had any pre-existing conditions that made the likelihood of injury greater for him/her than that of an average person. And, if such condition did exist, and but for the accident the victim would not have been injured, the at-fault party is on the hook for all general and special (or economic and non-economic) damages available to the victim (see How Prop 51 Impacts Your Personal Injury Claim). Should the at-fault party refuse to settle the accident victim’s claim for reasonable compensation, encompassing all medical bills and pain and suffering, and the matter proceeds to trial, the victim (through his/her attorney, of course) will provide the following jury instruction at the conclusion of closing argument: “You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [name of plaintiff] for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of [name of defendant], even if [name of plaintiff] was more susceptible to injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.” (see California Jury Instructions 3928: Unusually Susceptible Plaintiff) If you have suffered injury due to the fault of someone else’s negligence, contactour accident lawyer today for a consultation.

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