Some of us seem more equipped than others to respond to what life throws our way. Life events that devastate one person might, like water off a duck’s back, not phase another.
A huge dump of snow for one person might be a fun way to get exercise. For another, it is an impenetrable barrier to leaving the home.
The death of a close friend or family member will throw some into a debilitating depression. Others are able to carry on after a brief period of mourning.
Some of our elderly parents will never recover from a broken hip. For others, a broken hip is an unpleasant hiccup in an otherwise full and active retirement.
What do we do when we encounter those who are impacted more, because of their unique strengths and weaknesses, by what life throws their way? I like to think that we do our best to reach out and give them a helping hand.
Do we minimize or discount the very real, devastating impacts they are experiencing because many of us would have withstood the adversity? I like to think not.
What if the “life event” is your fault? What if it is something you did that, instead of water off a duck’s back, caused another person devastating consequences?
Do you accept full responsibility for the consequences of your actions? Or, do you instead try to avoid responsibility by blaming your victim for being more vulnerable to being impacted by your actions?
This issue comes up all the time in personal injury cases.
You crash into the back of a car that was just sitting there, waiting for a light to change. Your victim might be a fit, flexible, young person whose body can withstand and bounce back from a whiplash injury. Alternatively, the crash might be that straw that breaks the back of a particularly susceptible camel.
The law is very clear. You (your insurance company) take full responsibility for what your negligent driving has caused. It’s a legal principle that’s known as the “thin skull rule”. Bash someone over the head with a bat, and you (your insurance company) “pay the piper” even if your victim’s skull happens to be particularly thin and he suffers a more serious injury than someone with a thicker skull.
It’s a rule of law that fits with common sense morality.
There is another rule that deals with those who are so susceptible to injury that every day events like stepping off a curb or shoveling snow would be enough of a “straw” to cause serious consequences. That situation is referred to as “crumbling skull”. A “crumbling skull” victim is entitled only to compensation to the extent a crash accelerates an otherwise inevitable outcome.
If an insurance adjuster tries to get away with blaming you for taking longer to recover than it might take others, hand over a copy of this column. We are all unique, and you are entitled to fair financial compensation for however a negligent driver’s actions impact on you.