What is Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine and How Can it Affect Your Personal Injury Case?

by Sep 15, 2022Auto Accident, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Slip and Fall Injury

What is Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine and How Can it Affect Your Personal Injury Case?

by Sep 15, 2022Auto Accident, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Slip and Fall Injury

Florida's Eggshell Doctrine
Florida's Eggshell Doctrine

What is Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine

Insurance companies throw several defenses at car accident victims to reduce liability for harm. You might find insurance adjusters and defense lawyers invoking your poor health, previous injuries, and unknown consequences to deny you compensation. These types of arguments bring into play the “Eggshell Plaintiff.” Below, we explain the concepts of eggshells in personal injury law and how a personal injury attorney in Florida can embrace them to your advantage.

1. Eggshell Plaintiffs Have Peculiar Susceptibilities to Injuries

When a personal injury attorney in Florida represents an eggshell plaintiff, that lawyer refers to someone with a peculiar risk of serious injuries that others would not suffer.

You will often find elderly drivers in the camp of those with particular susceptibilities to serious bodily harm or even death. Bones become more brittle. Other signs of frailty among older drivers include loss of muscle mass and thinning skin. The impacts of even relatively slight trauma can prove debilitating or fatal. On a nationwide basis, drivers at least 70 years old die from crashes at higher rates per 1,000 crashes than those between ages 35 and 54.

Florida has many potential eggshells due to its aging population. Nearly one in every five residents in Florida stands at age 65 years or older. That’s 20 percent out of a total population that exceeds 21 million. By some reports, the elderly account for around 38 percent of those involved in Florida motor vehicle accidents.

2. Eggshell Plaintiffs Carry Pre-Existing Conditions

Chances are that you will be an eggshell plaintiff because of a pre-existing condition that might come into play in a car crash. For example, the Florida Department of Health reported the hospitalization rates per 100,000 for the following chronic conditions:

  • Coronary Heart Disease: 236.8
  • Strokes: 221.6
  • Diabetes: 2,160.3

Chronic pre-existing musculoskeletal conditions include arthritis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc diseases. Neck pain, back pain, knee pain, and discomfort in other areas may even arise from prior wrecks, falls, or other accidents. A crash could reinjure some part of your body that had been healing from a previous injury or illness.

3. What is Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine?

Thanks to “Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine,” insurance companies and defendants cannot take complete refuge behind your frailties, particularly susceptibilities to injuries, or pre-existing conditions. In other words, the responsible party takes you as that party finds you. As such, the rule allows you to recover for:

  • The aggravation or exacerbation of a pre-existing injury, disease, or other condition
  • The activation of a disease or condition which previously did not exhibit symptoms or other manifestations
  • The acceleration of a serious injury or death
  • Injuries that others in similar-type accidents would not suffer because of your frailty or weaknesses in physical condition

4. What About the Foreseeability of the Injuries?

As to automobile accidents, Florida law considers foreseeability (or the lack thereof) only for the collision. Scenarios such as unattended vehicles operated by car thieves or entrusting vehicles to others raise questions about whether the car owner should have anticipated the operator’s carelessness. Once the crash occurs, whatever may be its cause, the foreseeability inquiry stops. Florida’s Eggshell Doctrine affords compensation for all consequences, including those not foreseen.

A tortfeasor likely would not know or have reason to necessarily know about your proclivities to harm that others do not. For example, parties to an automobile accident most likely are strangers brought together by a chance moment of negligence.

5. The Eggshell Rule and Low Impact Crashes

With the Eggshell Rule in mind, you should not necessarily discount the compensation you could receive from a seemingly minor crash. Low-impact crashes feature either collisions at low rates of speed or those leaving minor damage to the vehicle. Some insurers classify property damage south of $5,000 or speeds of less than 15 miles per hour at collision as low impact events.

Beneath the surface of low speeds or minor damage lie potentially serious injuries. Frail
plaintiffs may suffer concussions or fractures. More commonly, low-impact crashes generate soft tissue injuries such as whiplash and sprained ankles, shoulders, or other extremities. With standard passenger vehicles weighing at least a ton, even low speeds generate considerable force that your body absorbs.

6. Examples of the Eggshell Doctrine

Often, an eggshell plaintiff has been recovering from the effects of a pre-existing condition. You may find yourself undergoing successful rehabilitation for prior musculoskeletal injuries or conditions when the crash aggravates the pain and creates a setback for you.

For instance, a Florida appellate court upheld a jury verdict for a person living with Parkinson’s disease before the wreck. The plaintiff, in that case, presented evidence that treatment had reduced his tremors to the point that he could have returned to work. However, the wreck had aggravated the tremors.

A personal injury attorney in Florida may present claims that the stress of an automobile crash aggravated or activated high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart conditions to the point of a stroke or heart attack. In addition, you may have pre-existing anxiety or depression that an automobile crash can worsen.

7. Awarding Damages When You Have Pre-Existing Conditions

Florida law entitles you to compensation for the aggravation, activation, or exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. For example, suppose you had a pre-existing knee injury from an accident or playing sports. Before the car crash, a doctor operated on the knee, and a physical therapist helped you regain strength and use of the knee. The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine likely won’t compensate you for those pre-crash treatments. However, the insurance company or defendant may be liable for medical attention, rehabilitation, lost wages, and pain and suffering occasioned by the reinjury or setback from a crash.

In some cases, a jury or court might find it impossible to distinguish the pre-existing injury from the aggravation or exacerbation. If you land in that situation, a jury should award you all damages flowing from the injury.

Don’t let an insurance company or defendant derail your case because you might be an eggshell plaintiff. Florida law entitles you to compensation for all the harm caused by a careless driver. So rather than hold back, share your pre-existing conditions, medical issues, and how the crash has aggravated or awakened them.

The Bodden & Bennett Law Group can help you if you have been injured in an accident. Our firm is here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call (561) 806-5229. If you have suffered a personal injury in South Florida, we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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