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The thin skull rule: What if my preexisting health condition makes my accident injuries worse?

August 10, 2009

Sometimes an accident victim has a preexisting health condition that caused them to be injured more seriously in an accident than a person without the condition would have been. Accident victims who find themselves in this situation are often confused and concerned about how much compensation they will receive for their injuries.

The answer is that victims with preexisting health conditions will still receive full compensation for all of their accident-related injuries – just the same as a person who does not suffer from a health condition. This is known as the “thin skull rule.”

The think skull rule is a legal concept that states the defendant “takes their victims as they find them.” In plain terms, the defendant cannot try to reduce the amount of money they have to pay by arguing that the victim’s health problems contributed to the extent of their injuries. The defendant is liable for the full extent of the victim’s injuries even if it was unforeseeable that the victim would suffer much greater injuries than the average person.

The somewhat strange name of the rule comes from the idea that even if a plaintiff had a skull as thin as an eggshell, the defendant would still be liable for their full damages if a minor accident caused the victim’s skull to break. It doesn’t matter that the defendant was unaware of the victim’s health condition, and it doesn’t matter that the defendant had no intention of causing such severe injuries.

For example, suppose that John Smith has a heart condition which caused him to suffer a heart attack from the shock of being involved in a car accident. Even though a person with no heart problems would not have had a heart attack as a result of the accident, under the thin skull rule, the defendant must still pay for the full extent of John Smith’s injuries, including all of the expenses related to his treatment for the heart attack.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact Fears Nachawati today for free legal advice about your potential personal injury lawsuit. Email us at or call us on our toll-free number at 1.866.705.7584 for your free consultation.

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