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Who Is Liable When Someone Commits Suicide?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

A suicide is a tragedy, and after someone takes their own life, we look for reasons why. Most often, those reasons fall to the person's own unhappiness or mental illness. But that is not always the case. In some situations, it appears that a person has been pushed to commit suicide, or become more suicide-prone than he or she normally would be.

In these cases, could someone else be liable for a person's suicide? And are there legal claims that cover these scenarios?

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the family or estate of a person who dies due to the fault of someone else. State wrongful death laws can vary, but generally the person bringing the suit must prove that the defendant's intentional or negligent acts caused the death and that the person bringing the suit has suffered some harm due to the death.

In the case of a suicide, a successful wrongful death claim would need to demonstrate that the person would not have killed themselves but for the acts of the defendant. Many wrongful death claims have been filed by parents after their child has committed suicide in response to bullying. When the bullying occurs in school, parents have sued both the bullies and the school for not properly intervening.

Dangerous Drugs

Some studies have linked certain medications to increased risk of suicide, specifically the stop-smoking drug Chantix. Chantix was forced to carry additional suicide warnings to users and the drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, may have intentionally misrepresented the increased suicide risk associated with the drug.

Under products liability law, drug companies can be held liable for dangerous side effects. Manufacturers of medications have a duty to warn users or intermediaries about known side effects, and could be sued if they failed to alert drug users or those who proscribe the drugs about the possible dangers.

If a loved one has committed suicide and you think it is someone else's fault, you may want to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you.

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