Quite often, injury victims are not in perfect health. One injury victim may be suffering from a serious heart condition that predisposes them to blood clots, heart attacks, and other heart-related injuries during times of great stress. Another injury victim may be suffering from a weak back that is prone to fracture injuries.
Injury victims who are in particularly poor health, or who are uniquely fragile — for example, who suffer from muscle weakness or a lack of bone density — may feel that they are not in a strong position to sue the defendant who caused their injuries. These victims mistakenly believe that their condition precludes a lawsuit. After all, should the defendant be held liable for injuries that are unexpected?
Simply put: yes. In Arizona, and in other jurisdictions throughout the country, defendants may be held liable for any and all injuries that were caused by their negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. It does not matter that the defendant was “unlucky” that their actions affected a fragile victim — the defendant must bear the burden.
All of this is great news for injury victims, of course, and we encourage you to speak with a qualified attorney for further guidance. For now, let’s unpack some of this terminology so that we can clarify any remaining confusion.
Defendants Must Accept the Cost Burden of Their Actions
No matter what jurisdiction you’re in — Arizona or California or New Mexico or Texas — the “thin skull” rule, otherwise known as the “eggshell skull” rule, will apply to your injury lawsuit. This rule is fundamental to personal injury litigation, and has far-reaching implications.
So, what is the “thin skull” rule?
Essentially, the “thin skull” rule requires that the defendant be held liable for all the damages that they cause, no matter the condition of the defendant. Pursuant to the “thin skull” rule, a defendant may be held liable for damages that are unforeseen, unlikely, and entirely unexpected.
For example, suppose that someone sucker punches you on the street. You have a degenerative spinal condition that renders your spine particularly vulnerable to shock impact damage. When you fall down and hit the ground, you become paralyzed from the waist down. Even though a “normal” person may not have been paralyzed under the same circumstances, it is irrelevant — you would be able to sue and recover damages that include all the losses you sustained (and will sustain) due to your paralysis.
The “thin skull” rule shifts the cost burden of an injury over to the defendant who caused the injury. If the rule were not in effect, then the disproportionate consequences of the defendant’s behavior would have to be shouldered by the plaintiff, who was simply a victim, not the aggressor. Application of the rule has significant (positive) implications, which is why it is uniformly applied across jurisdictions in the United States.
How the “Thin Skull” Rule Works in Real-World Situations
In real-world situations, the “thin skull” rule allows fragile plaintiffs to sue and recover substantial damages that may seem disproportionate given the defendant’s actions. Imagine, for example, that you are involved in a car accident with the defendant. You have generalized anxiety, and in the wake of the accident, you experienced episodes that have caused substantial emotional trauma. Though the fact that you are experiencing continued psychological trauma months, or even years, after the accident may seem “disproportionate,” so long as you can present evidence of this trauma (i.e., medical/therapy records) then you would be entitled to recover damages.
Speak With an Experienced Phoenix Car Accident Attorney for Further Guidance
If you’ve been injured in an Arizona car accident due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts of another person or entity, then you should consult with a qualified attorney who can help you navigate the challenges of litigation and obtain compensation on your behalf — even if you suffer from a physical condition that makes you more “fragile” than the average person, or that otherwise predisposed you to injury.
The prospect of personal injury litigation can already feel overwhelming to an injured plaintiff who has little experience in the legal arena, and this feeling can be exacerbated if they suffer from a condition that predisposed them to the injury. There’s no need for concern, however. It’s important to remember that Arizona law allows injured plaintiffs — even those who are uniquely fragile — to sue the defendant and recover damages pursuant to a legitimate injury claim.
Here at Hirsch & Lyon, our attorneys have spent decades representing the interests of injured plaintiffs in a range of disputes, including those where our client was a “thin skull” plaintiff and therefore suffered a unique fragility that predisposed them to injury.
Call (602) 535-1900 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix car accident attorney today. We look forward to assisting you.