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Protecting the Weak or Less Fortunate – Why the Eggshell Argument is Not Valid in Texas

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2019 at 12:44 am    

Most people know that if they have been injured in a vehicle accident and were not to blame, they may be able to claim compensation from the person who was recognized as being at fault. But what happens if the person who was injured was more likely to be a victim anyway? Perhaps he or she was older and more frail, or had a disability or weakness that made him or her more likely to be hurt? Should that be taken into consideration when making a decision about compensation? In civil law, here in Texas at any rate, and in many other states and indeed countries around the world, this is not a valid defense against a claim against them.

The forseeability factor

The so called ‘thin skull’ or ‘eggshell defense’ is part of what is called the ‘forseeability factor.’ Here are two scenarios that illustrate the forseeability factor in respect to vehicle accidents a little more clearly.

Scenario One: When an accident was unforeseeable

A truck driver is driving along a section of highway when a deer rushes out on to the road in front of him. In an effort to avoid the deer, he swerves into the path of an oncoming vehicle. There is a crash and the driver of the smaller vehicle is badly injured. Was the accident the fault of the truck driver? Unlikely, because the truck driver could not have foreseen that the deer would have bounded into the highway at that precise point and made him swerve. Any attempt to claim compensation from the truck driver would probably not succeed.

Scenario Two: When an accident was foreseeable

Take another example. A family from McAllen has been on vacation in Florida. They decide to drive all the way back in one long spell behind the wheel. At one point, the driver nods off and the car careers across the highway and crashes into another vehicle, injuring the occupants of both vehicles. In this case, the accident was foreseeable. If the family had broken up their journey and gotten more sleep, the accident probably wouldn’t have happened. If the occupants of the other vehicle filed a claim against the family, they would probably win the claim as their decision to keep driving, even though they were tired, would have been regarded as negligence.

The pattern seems to be clear. If an accident was foreseeable, then if an accident takes place then it could be construed as negligence. This favors the plaintiff in a personal injury claim. If the accident was not foreseeable, then there is less evidence of negligence which favors the defendant.

A plaintiff’s vulnerability cannot be taken into consideration even if it was unforeseeable

This leads on to the eggshell or thin skull argument. If a driver hits another vehicle and an injury occurs because the person who was hit was more likely to be hurt because of a pre existing condition, or simply their age, then surely this couldn’t be ‘foreseeable,’ unless of course the driver who crashed into the other vehicle knew the person well! This should favor the defendant if there is a claim made.

Contrary to the pattern of thinking established above, however, the lack of forseeability is not regarded as a defense when it comes to a consideration of the condition of the plaintiff. Texas, and other legal systems, favors the plaintiff in an ‘eggshell skull’ case. The reasoning behind this apparent contradiction is that attorneys acting on behalf of a defendant would use any way they could to get their client off the hook if the eggshell factor was allowed to be taken into account. The plaintiff was on social security? How could their client know he or she was so old or disabled? The plaintiff had a weak heart? How could their client know that in advance?

The denial of an eggshell skull defense helps the weaker and more vulnerable in the community when they are hurt because of someone else’s actions. We will all be weaker and more vulnerable than others at some stage in our lives, so the law helps all of us at some point.

Whatever the circumstances of your accident, whether it was caused by a negligent driver or a careless store manager, you can rely on the Patino Law Firm in McAllen to help you obtain justice when it comes to a personal injury claim. You can call the Patino Law Firm to arrange an appointment at 956-631-3535.