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Los Angeles Law Blog

By John Kristensen of Kristensen Weisberg, LLP posted in Wrongful Death on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Suicide and Wrongful Death: You May Be Entitled to Compensation in California, But It’s Tricky

In the vast majority of civil wrongful death lawsuits involving someone’s death, it is more or less possible to establish liability and fault of another person (if some party is believed to be at fault for causing the death either due to negligence or intentional act).

But holding someone liable for a suicide of another person presents the family members of the deceased with a plethora of legal obstacles, as establishing fault in a suicide is no easy task, our Los Angeles wrongful death attorney at the Kristensen Weisberg, LLP, warns.

Proving the link between a suicide and someone else’s negligent, reckless or intentional actions (or omission to act) is quite difficult. That is not so say, however, that it is totally impossible.

In fact, it is not uncommon for family members of the deceased to be able to hold someone else responsible for the suicide of their loved one. In such cases, however, the importance of being represented by a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer cannot be ignored.

Are families entitled to wrongful death benefits in a suicide?

California is one of few states in our nation where civil courts take suicide-based wrongful death claims seriously. In fact, unlike other states, California allows family members to pursue a wrongful death claim if their loved one has committed suicide (other states, meanwhile, prohibit filing wrongful death claims after a suicide).

One thing to note, however, is that family members of the deceased who committed suicide may be eligible for wrongful death benefits only as long as (a) another person (party) owed a special duty of care toward the deceased person, and (b) that person’s negligence was a significant factor in causing the suicide.

Family members of the deceased who committed a suicide may be entitled to wrongful death benefits not only if they can prove that a therapist, counselor, medical professional, or other party that was supposed to keep an eye on the person and his/her emotional and mental health (the party owed a special duty of care), but also if it can be proven that the defendant engaged in “damaging” behavior (mocking, harassing, ridiculing, defamation, discrimination etc.) that inflicted severe emotional distress, caused suicidal thoughts, and eventually led to the suicide.

How are suicide-based wrongful death claims handled by California courts?

Given the severity of allegations (if you believe that the defendant’s negligence, action or inaction, was a substantial factor that caused the suicide of your loved one), you will have to go to civil court with a rather heavy burden of proof. That is why it is highly advised to be legally represented by a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney from the Kristensen Weisberg, LLP, who would help you determine liability and collect evidence of the defendant’s fault.

Normally, California courts take into account certain factors when determining whether or not the defendant is responsible for causing someone else’s suicide. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Was the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, intentional act, actions or omission to act a substantial factor in the deceased’s suicide?
  • Was it reasonably foreseeable for the defendant to expect the deceased person to commit suicide (and thus, could the defendant prevent it?)?
  • Did the defendant have any reason to believe that the deceased person had suicidal tendencies (had hinted he/she would commit suicide, attempted suicide in the past, etc.)?
  • How much time passed between the defendant’s act or behavior and the act of suicide?

These and many other factors are considered by Los Angeles and California courts when it comes to handling suicide-based wrongful death claims. Let our best wrongful death attorneys in Los Angeles help you collect sufficient evidence and prepare a strong case in court.

Contact the Kristensen Weisberg, LLP, to get a free consultation today. Call our offices at 310-984-1297 or complete this contact form.