When people are injured in accidents and especially when they forgo legal
representation, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier may go to
great lengths to devalue or deny the injured party’s claim altogether.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is for an insurance company to argue
that the victim’s injuries existed before the accident, and therefore
do not deserve compensation. How does an insurance company make such a claim?
When an injured person is unaware of their legal rights, they may agree
to the insurance company’s request by signing a medical release
form, which allows the insurance company to “pry” into their
medical records (past and present).
By obtaining access to the plaintiff’s medical records, the insurance
company can dig into the person’s medical records in hopes of finding
something, anything, which can point to “pre-existing injuries.”
The goal of the insurance company is to claim the victim’s injuries
were pre-existing and therefore, the insurance company can escape all
responsibility for the damages.
Let’s say an elderly woman is prone to breaking bones because she
has poor bone density; it does not mean that an insurance company can
avoid paying her medical bills after she breaks her arm in a
Or, if an Army veteran has PTSD, it does not mean that he can’t suffer
further emotional distress after being violently attacked by two large
dogs, or after being beaten and robbed in a store parking lot. Or, if a football
player had a head injury while playing football, that doesn't mean
he can't collect damages for a head injury in a future car accident.
Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine
The theory of “pre-existing injuries” in a personal injury
case comes from what’s commonly known as the “eggshell plaintiff
Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, the law recognizes the fact that
people’s pre-existing injuries can make them more susceptible to
additional injuries, or more severe injuries, even from a minor fender
bender. However, a victim’s pre-existing injuries do not minimize
the liable party’s culpability.
In other words, the at-fault party is fully responsible for the victim’s
injuries, even if they had pre-existing injuries or they were “eggshell
Accident victims should be aware that if they have a pre-existing physical
or mental disability or condition, insurance companies are still fully
liable if their policyholder’s negligence exacerbates or further
aggravates the plaintiff’s pre-existing injuries.
If you’re looking for a Columbia
personal injury lawyer,
contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC for a
free case evaluation!