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Bringing a Civil Liability Lawsuit for Suicide


Typically, when an individual passes away and the cause of death is determined to be suicide, there is nothing left to pursue. The family is devastated, yes, and they may try to establish a reason for the deceased individual’s decision to take his or her own life, but outside of a personal investigation, no further legal actions will be taken. At least, that is how it is in most suicide cases.

Occasionally, the family of a deceased loved one will attempt to hold another individual liable for their loved one’s passing by filing a civil lawsuit against them. While proving wrongful death via suicide is difficult (in legal jargon, the term for this is “causation”), it is not impossible, nor is it unheard of.

Determining Civil Liability for Suicide

By definition, an individual who has committed suicide is the direct cause of his or her own death. However, the key question to ask if you hope to place the responsibility on someone else is: would your loved one still have committed suicide if not for this other person’s words or actions? A few points to consider before filing a civil suit for wrongful death are as follows:

  • Were the defendant’s actions (or inactions) a substantial factor in the victim’s decision to end his or her own life?
  • If so, should the defendant have reasonably foreseen that his or her actions (or inactions) would have led to the victim’s decision to commit suicide?

If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, then you have the beginnings of a civil liability suit for suicide; however, in order to determine the strength of your case – or, more accurately, in order to begin building a liability argument – your Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer will want to know the following:

  • Did the defendant know, or have reason to know, that the deceased individual was suicidal? For instance, did the victim try to commit suicide in the past? Did the victim have suicidal thoughts, speak of suicide, or express ideation for those who had committed suicide?
  • How much time had passed between the defendant’s actions and the deceased individual’s death?
  • Did other factors exist between the defendant and the victim that could explain the deceased’s decision to end his or her life?

Unfortunately, because the decision to commit suicide was ultimately up to the deceased individual, it is extremely difficult to build a strong enough argument to convince a judge and jury that the defendant is actually at fault for the deceased’s death.

Consult a Fort Lauderdale Wrongful Death Lawyer

Because there is so much gray surrounding civil liability for suicide, it is best to approach a civil lawsuit armed with a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer who understands the law and what needs to be proven in order to build a strong case. Furthermore, an experienced lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of Florida’s wrongful death statutes and help you apply them to your case. To speak with a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer today, contact The Pendas Law Firm at 1-888-LPENDAS today. We also serve clients in the Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Myers areas.

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