Liability When Someone Commits Suicide
As a nation, we have put a lot of money into suicide awareness and prevention, and for aid to those who may feel like suicide is the only answer. But the sad fact is that suicide does happen. When it does, it can and will devastate a family. Understandably, blaming others may not be the first thing on your mind, if your family is dealing with a suicide.
But there are times when someone may be liable for a suicide, and if you are a family grieving for a lost loved one, you may want to know whether someone who could have helped, failed to do so.
No Overall Duty
The first thing to remember is that as a general rule, there is no duty or obligation to stop someone from committing suicide. Putting aside the question of what is ethical or moral, you can’t just sue anybody who knew that someone was going to commit suicide but who did nothing to stop it from happening.
The real issue is whether someone who had a duty to act to stop the suicide, failed to act. Those with a duty usually include those who are in a special situation or relationship to the victim.
Who is Liable?
Of course, the first people that come to mind are medical professionals.
Many medical professionals can be liable if they knew of the signs of suicide, and failed to do anything about it. But that may often depend on the kind of medical professional.
For example, an orthopedist, who works with bones, may not be trained to see, or even look for, the signs of suicide and thus, it would be harder to sue an orthopedist for failing to recognize and do anything after seeing the signs of suicide.
Contrast that to a mental health professional, who may be trained to see those signs. With, for example, a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist, there may be liability if the telltale signs and symptoms of suicide were there, but ignored or not treated.
Special Custodial Situations
Other situations may give rise to liability as well. Schools may be liable for seeing or hearing signs of suicide and not acting. A school doesn’t have to immediately render medical aid or commit a student, but it does have to provide a student counseling and at the very least, immediately inform the student’s family of the suicidal signs and symptoms.
Likewise with nursing homes with patients that show signs of suicide, especially because nursing homes should have trained medical staff on duty, and should be monitoring and caring for its residents’ physical as well as mental health.
Looking at the Records
Even if the duty arises, such as with a counselor or nursing home, the question then becomes, did the victim exhibit or express signs and symptoms that a reasonably trained professional would have recognized as being indicative of suicide?
Sadly, many people who are suicidal, hide their thoughts, feelings or intentions. Medical or other records can often tell the story of how much the victim told other people, and whether there were enough symptoms displayed to alert others that the victim needed help.
Contact the Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at Cameron Law today at 702-745-4545 for a free consultation if someone you love has been a victim of malpractice, or of any kind of nursing home neglect.