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Understanding the Eggshell Skull Rule

Whenever someone in Bozeman loses a loved one due to another's negligent actions, it may be easy for most to understand the motivation to hold such negligent parties accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, simply because negligence is alleged to have caused a death does not mean that those affected are automatically entitled to collect damages. It must first be proven how the allegedly negligent party contributed to the tragedy. 

There are typically two types of cause considered in wrongful death cases: cause in fact or proximate cause. Cause in fact is fairly straightforward; it exists whenever a result would not have occurred without the attributed cause. Proving proximate cause can be somewhat trickier. It involves causes that set sequences in motion that result in forseeable effects. So, while a proximate cause may not be the direct cause of one's death, it may have initiated the events that lead to it. 

What about cases where a victim's unique condition contributes to the sequences prompted by a proximate cause? For example, say someone suffers a concussion, which increases his or her risks of acquiring a subsequent brain injury in the future. That person is then rear-ended by another driver, causing his or her head to hit the steering wheel. A second, more severe brain injury occurs, resulting in the victim's death. 

Could the defendant in such a cause use argue in a wrongful death lawsuit that the victim would have never died if not for his or her injury? According to the Eggshell Skull Rule (as shared by the Cornell University Law School), a defendant's liability can indeed be magnified due to a victim's unique characteristics. Thus, even though a previous injury may have contributed to one's death, a plaintiff may still be liable if he or she exacerbated it. 

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