Thin Skull Rule: If you have a pre-existing injury

The thin skull rule versus the crumbling skull rule.

What does that mean?

Well, let us tell you.

It goes something like this.

We have a client. Our client's name is Jordan. Because of a sports injury, Jordan has always suffered from severe neck pain. The neck pain has been so much at times that he has taken days off work from his job in the military. Although his neck pain has been severe, after a chiropractic adjustment, Jordan has always been able to return to work after a few days. All was well. Jordan's neck pain was an intermittent, but not a continuous problem.

Then Jordan was involved in a motor vehicle collision. Worst. Now Jordan's neck pain is more severe than ever. It is so bad that Jordan was medically released from his position in the military. Jordan thought he had an entire career set for him. Now he does not know what he is going to do. 

As Jordan's lawyers, we have to prove that Jordan did not have what we call a "crumbling skull" and that we need to apply the thin skull rule. We will demonstrate to the Defendant's lawyers (and if that does not work, a judge) that Jordan would have continued in his career as he was until that motor vehicle collision changed his life.

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The Thin Skull Rule and the Law

In the situation where a Defendant (wrongdoer) hits the Plaintiff (an innocent person who happens to be our client) on the head. The Plaintiff's skull shatters from the blow (gross we know). In this case, the Defendant will be responsible for the full extent of the injury to the Plaintiff's skull.  Even if the Plaintiff had a particularly thin skull and the force of the blow would have only caused bruising on someone else, the Defendant is still responsible for the full injury. 

We call this the thin skull rule.  Some call it the eggshell skull rule. In this situation, the person’s skull is more fragile than normal, but it was working fine, and it would have been possible for the Plaintiff to go his whole life without any problems with his skull. The wrongdoer Defendant changed all that when she gave him the blow to the head. The Defendant is responsible for the full extent of the injuries even though the skull itself was thin and quite vulnerable in the first place.   

The thin skull rule is different from what we refer to as the "crumbling skull rule." This rule applies when a plaintiff has a skull that was already deteriorating when the defendant hit him.  If the Defendant cracks a skull that was going to become cracked over time anyways, even without being hit, then the defendant would have only been an aggravating cause of the injury.  

Of course, most of us don’t go around hitting people on the head, but the thin skull and crumbling skull principles also apply to other injuries and other situations. 

Written by Val Hemminger, Personal Injury Lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore