By: Kurtis Parcells

In personal injury law, the court seeks to put the injured plaintiff back into the position they would have been in, had the tortfeasor (the individual who commits the wrongful act and causes injury to another person), not committed the act. The injured plaintiff is put back into their original position with a monetary award to compensate for the injury.

When someone gets injured with a pre-existing condition or an innate vulnerability in their mental or physical condition, they are not barred from recovering the full extent of their damages. However, the injured party’s award will be limited to reflect their previously impaired state.  

What does it mean to have a thin skull?

A thin skulled plaintiff is a legal principle which stands for the premise that a tortfeasor is fully liable for the plaintiff’s injuries even if the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition made the injury worse.  

As the saying goes, the tortfeasor “must take his or her victim as they find them”. Therefore, even though a thin skulled plaintiff’s pre-existing condition exacerbated the injury beyond what an average person would have suffered in the situation, the tortfeasor will still be liable for the full extent of the damages.

How does a crumbling skull limit potential compensation?

An injured plaintiff is only entitled to be put back into their “original position” – before being injured by a tortfeasor. The crumbling skull rule simply acknowledges that a person’s pre-existing condition is built into their original position. Therefore, a plaintiff with a crumbling skull won’t be entitled to the same level of compensation as a  non-crumbling skull plaintiff in the same situation. This is because less is required to bring the crumbling skull plaintiff back into their original position.

For example, Peter has a predisposition to back problems and gets into a car accident caused by a tortfeasor and suffers a disc herniation. Peter is entitled to be put back in his original position – a guy with a pre-existing back issue but no disc herniation. The tortfeasor will still be fully liable for the injuries they caused but they will not be obligated to compensate Peter the plaintiff as if he had no back issues at all.

MyOpenCourt and the Conflict Analytics Lab will soon be releasing a Personal Injury AI-powered tool to help clients estimate their potential damage reward. Follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this response is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. The content provided does not create a legal client relationship, and nothing in this response should be considered as a substitute for professional legal advice. The information is based on general principles of law and may not reflect the most current legal developments or interpretations in your jurisdiction. Laws and regulations vary by jurisdiction, and the application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts and circumstances involved. You should consult with a qualified legal professional for advice regarding your specific situation.