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Personal Injury Law Is More Complex Than You Think

I always assumed that personal injury cases where pretty straight forward. After being in an accident, any financial losses that you suffered would be reimbursed by the liable party's insurance company. Unfortunately, things only work this way in a perfect world. In the real world, personal injury cases are extremely complex and getting the insurance company to pay a fair settlement requires the expertise of an experienced injury lawyer. Unfortunately, it took me several months to finally seek out the legal assistance I needed. As a result, I waited much longer than necessary to get the compensation I so desperately needed. During this time, I learned more about personal injury law than I ever thought I would. It is my hope that this blog will allow me to share that knowledge with you so that you can avoid making some of the same mistakes that I did.

Personal Injury Law Is More Complex Than You Think

Can You File A Wrongful Death Claim Over A Suicide? Here Are Questions You Should Ask

by Christine Wagner

Over 38,000 people in the U.S. commit suicide each year. Some of these deaths can't be foreseen or prevented, but there are times when someone else can and should be held accountable for another person's suicide. If someone you love has committed suicide, there's a possibility that you can hold someone responsible through a wrongful death claim. Here are the questions that you need to ask.

Was the suicide victim receiving mental health care?

Around 95% of suicide victims suffer from psychiatric disorders. Their suicides often come after months or years of emotional turmoil, not as a response to a single, recent event. If the suicide victim was receiving mental health care, the physicians (including primary care doctors) or psychiatric professionals treating him or her had a duty to try to protect the patient from suicide. 

Not every suicide is preventable, but medical professionals owe their patients a certain standard of care. That includes doing a suicide risk assessment if the patient is showing signs of a mental disorder, documenting the responses, responding with appropriate attempts at treatment, and arranging for follow-up visits and counseling. 

Was the suicide victim an inpatient in a mental health unit?

Recent events, such as the death of actor Kristoff St. John's son while the 24-year-old was supposed to be on a suicide watch, have brought to light how complacency and negligence can endanger fragile patients inside mental health facilities.

A wrongful death claim should absolutely be considered if the victim was an inpatient in a mental health facility because of severe depression, suicidal threats, or some other serious mental disorder. Inpatient suicides can be a result of any number of negligent actions on the part of the facility:

  • failure to remove items from the environment that a patient can use to commit suicide
  • inadequate assessment of the patient's risk of suicide
  • a lapse in care, including not regularly checking on the patient
  • a failure to respond to suicidal comments or threats
  • inadequate medication or counseling 

Was the suicide victim incarcerated without proper care?

Several tragic events in the news have illustrated the need for proper mental health care and treatment inside our nation's prisons. People who have long-standing psychiatric disorders can end up on the wrong side of the law, sometimes as a direct result of those psychiatric issues. When the inmate has a known psychiatric history and requires medication to control his or her disorder, suicide is preventable with proper care and monitoring.

However, cases like that of Scott Meirs, a veteran with PTSD, illustrate how often that care isn't provided. Despite telling others that he planned to kill himself and official awareness that he was being treated with a medication that increased his risk of suicide, Meirs was left virtually unmonitored for long periods of time. He eventually hung himself.

If your loved one committed suicide and you believe that the suicide could have (and should have) been prevented by the people in charge of his or her care, contact a wrongful death attorney like Fonvielle, Lewis, Foote & Messer to discuss your case.