How suicide can change how your wrongful death case is decided:
Suicide is always a tragedy, impacting countless victims left behind. Why people take their own lives is a dark mystery, and we've all known the collateral damage it causes.
It may seem insensitive to even ask, but: How does suicide impact a wrongful death case? Or, what happens when a defendant alleges that my loved one committed suicide? In this article, we'll touch on the defense of suicide. To learn what defenses are, be sure to click on our Overview of Legal Defenses.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- How does the suicide defense impact a personal injury case in Texas?
- What happens if the defense argues that suicide is the reason for the accident?
- How do you argue against the suicide defense?
If someone intentionally kills themselves, it can seriously impact a wrongful death case.
The basic premise behind tort law in general is to right a wrong one person did to another. It follows, then, that generally speaking the law doesn't allow recovery for anyone (or their heirs) who intentionally harm themselves. For example, we all would agree that if you purposefully spill liquid onto a grocery store's floor and then walk through the spill in the hopes of getting hurt, you should be barred from filing a personal injury suit against the store.
But how does this apply to those left behind? After all, you didn't kill your loved one. As we discuss in our wrongful death guide, those who've lost a family member must "piggy back" their case onto the personal injury case of those they've lost. In essence, you inherit the case the decedent would have had in the event they'd survived. That means you inherit that case's problems.
So, for example, if your husband was in an 18-wheeler accident, but it can be shown that he was driving too fast and caused the accident itself, you'll likely be entitled to no recovery---that's not to say that your husband's life didn't matter or that you've not suffered a devastating loss, only that it's not fair to place the financial burden on a third party with no responsibility.
In some rare cases, suicide will not bar a wrongful death claim at all. In fact, there have been instances where the defendant's conduct sufficiently contributed to the decedent's misery and mental instability that juries have awarded their estates large settlements. These are often in the medical malpractice or pharmaceutical contexts where something seriously wrong was done and a previously-stable individual took their own life. However, these events don't happen very often.
Some defendants will falsely allege suicide to avoid paying you
More significantly, some defendants (and their lawyers) may try to defray liability for accidents by claiming that your loved one wasn't killed by someone else, they committed suicide. They'll try to dredge up evidence of depression or mental illness and paint your lost family member as a "ticking time bomb" who wanted to die.
Very few lawyers ever sink this low when there isn't significant evidence, but we've seen it happen. We've witnessed defendants try to harp on the fact that a decedent had lost her parent recently and had been seeing counselors, as though that had anything to do with her death.
If you're concerned that your loved one's memory will be smeared, we need to talk. There are legal mechanisms at our disposal to prevent such information from getting out in the public record and especially away from the jury.
Call Grossman Law Offices Today.
Don't let some defense lawyer ruin your case with unfounded aspersions. And remember, even if our investigation finally reveals that your family member tragically made the decision to end their own life, you and your family won't owe us a cent if we have to withdraw. Don't hesitate to call us at (855) 326-0000 to discuss how the law applies to what you think happened to your loved one.
Other articles about personal injury cases that may be helpful:
- A Comprehensive Guide to Texas Car Accident Law
- Looking at How Commercial Truck Insurance Works
- What to Expect at Court-Ordered Mediation