Spinal cord injuries can result from a spectrum of causes: compression of the space around a disk, fractures of a vertebra (cervical, thoracic or lumbar), or a disk "blown" or crushed by a fall. The spinal cord can be injured or severed by a gunshot or by a knife wound. But the leading cause of spinal cord injuries is, by far, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs).

 Often, the MVA victim is concerned about whether a pre-existing condition will make a difference in his case. Generally, it will.

The person whose negligence causes an MVA is responsible only for the harm that results from that particular accident. That means that, if the victim had a pre-existing injury, the victim is entitled to compensation only for the extent to which the accident made the victim’s condition worse.

Sometimes the victim had no pain from his pre-existing condition, but the condition made him more susceptible to being injured. Then the "eggshell plaintiff" rule applies. The rule provides that it is no defense that a pre-existing neck or back condition made the victim more susceptible to injury. The wrongdoer who caused the MVA must fully compensate the victim. It makes no difference that another victim without the pre-existing condition might not have suffered any injury at all. The "eggshell plaintiff" is entitled to be fully compensated for the injuries he suffered in the accident, even if the careless driver had no way of knowing the victim’s condition was so fragile.

The victim’s pre-existing condition plays an important part in the evaluation of spinal cord injury cases. Sometimes, sorting out what injuries were pre-existing from those that were not can be exceedingly difficult. Because of that, the cases are best handled by attorneys experienced in analyzing medical evidence and in presenting that evidence to a jury.