One of the first legal questions any injury victim will have after an accident is what his or her case is worth. The simple fact is that no two cases are the same because no two plaintiffs are the same. Any loss that was caused by the accident is subject to compensation. Those losses can be greatly affected by the profession of the injured party.
If you or a loved one has sustained a personal injury – whether due to a car accident, workplace accident, medical malpractice or other negligence – contact the Dolman Law Group to protect your legal rights. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have decades of experience in protecting the rights of Florida accident victims.
The “Eggshell Plaintiff Rule”
It’s one of the basic principles of personal injury law: even if you were injured more severely or suffered more losses than another plaintiff would have in the same accident, you are still entitled to full compensation for all of your losses from the person who caused them. This doctrine is informally known as the “eggshell plaintiff rule”.
Here are some real examples of eggshell plaintiff cases:
In February 2012, a sixty-five-year-old man was rear-ended by another driver. He initially refused an ambulance or medical treatment. As the plaintiff’s pain increased over the next several days, he went to a chiropractor. An MRI showed the plaintiff had a degenerative disc herniation, which had been severely aggravated by the accident. (The patient had, in fact, shown no symptoms prior to the car accident.) The recommended surgical intervention could not be performed due to the plaintiff’s cardiac condition and diabetic neuropathy. His only options were, therefore, to manage the pain with physical therapy and acupuncture. Prior to trial, the defendant’s insurance company offered to settle the case for $20,000 – a figure the plaintiff rejected. He was ultimately awarded $1,041, 697 at trial.
Jury trials do not always result in verdicts in favor of defense verdicts – a lesson that Herman Johnson, aged sixty-nine, learned the hard way. Mr. Johnson was injured in a car accident caused by an improper left turn executed by Yannet Morales, aged twenty-one. Ms. Morales’ attorneys agreed that she was liable for causing the car accident, but disputed that Mr. Johnson’s medical bills were a result of the accident. (Prior to trial, Mr. Johnson had made a settlement demand of $87,500 for past medical bills.) The parties agreed that Mr. Johnson had degenerative arthritis in his knee. Ms. Morales’ experts testified his arthroscopy procedure – costing over $60,000 – would have required regardless of the car accident. The jury agreed and returned a verdict in favor of the defense after one hour of deliberation.
The Eggshell Plaintiff doctrine extends broadly to losses other than medical bills, as well. Loss of income and decreased future earning potential are also areas in which the victim is legally entitled to full compensation – even if another plaintiff would not have lost as much income in the same accident. Consider the example of a concert pianist: suppose the pianist suffered a nerve injury in a car accident and could no longer play the piano. While an accountant or librarian might have found ways to work with this disability, the pianist is no longer able to perform. Instead, she can only teach piano lessons, and this occupation brings in a fraction of her performance earnings. The difference in income between teaching and performing is a loss which is attributable to the accident. Even if the performance earnings were vast, the negligent driver who caused the accident still bears a legal obligation to compensate their loss.
Valuing Injured Body Parts
Quantifying the loss of various body parts or functions is an inexact science at best. In the concert pianist example above, it was easy to calculate the difference in earning capacity before and after the accident. But what about the emotional losses the pianist sustained? The inability to engage in a much-beloved activity and the loss of reputation within the musical community are compensable losses – even if the value of such losses cannot be precisely quantified. What if the pianist had lost her hands altogether in the accident? This would result in many other emotional losses: the inability to pick up her children, the inability to complete her household duties, the loss of enjoyment of many hobbies and recreational activities, etc. These, too, are compensable losses.
These distinct and independent losses can also be separated for purposes of valuing a personal injury claim. As an example: suppose that a brain surgeon sustains a nerve injury in a car accident. His daily activities are generally unaffected, but he cannot participate in surgeries due to tremors in his hands. Instead, he begins to consult and lecture, and is able to make more money in these fields than he did as a practicing surgeon. He has sustained no lost income as a result of the accident. However, he is still entitled to compensation for the loss of his ability to perform surgeries. The enjoyment of this activity has an inexact value which would likely have to be arbitrarily determined by a jury, but it is nonetheless a loss he sustained. The fact that he has made more money moving into other areas of work does not change this fact.
The personal injury attorneys of the Dolman Law Group have decades of experience in negotiating and litigating back injury claims. They fight hard to protect St. Petersburg residents from injuries and ensure that they are fairly compensated when injuries do occur. Whether your back injury was caused by a car accident, workplace accident, slip and fall accident, or medical malpractice, our experienced team has the legal expertise to ably handle your claim. Call (727) 222-6922 to schedule your free consultation with a personal injury attorney today. Our experienced, aggressive attorneys will protect your right to be compensated for your injuries and losses.
Dolman Law Group
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712