Suicide is tragic, and all too common; thousands of people in the United States commit suicide every year. Determining legal liability can be difficult, if not impossible, because suicide is a personal choice. However, there may be times when people other than victims can be responsible for suicide. In this article, you will find out when you can hold a school official, doctor, or parent liable for another person's suicide.
Questions of Parental Liability
In 2002, a 12-year-old boy committed suicide at home. Months later, the child's mother became the first person to ever face criminal charges for her son's suicide. Such cases aren't common, but courts and governments are frequently stepping in to ensure that parents provide proper medical care to children. Therefore, it's not too much of a stretch for a parent to face a wrongful death suit in a child's suicide, especially if they knew the child was suicidal and did nothing to help.
As a rule, your legal liability for your children ends when they reach the age of majority or become emancipated. However, if your child is over 18 and is mentally or physically handicapped, you may still be held liable if he or she commits suicide.
School Boards and Officials
Teachers, school staff, and counselors can face wrongful death accusations if a student commits suicide. Generally, schools are responsible for children's safety while they're on campus; in the case referenced above, the child's mother claimed that her son's school was responsible because it did nothing to prevent her son from being bullied.
In the past, schools have been held responsible for suicides when counselors and staff knew (or should have known) that a student had suicidal tendencies, and they did nothing to prevent the behavior. If your child's school fails to tell you about his or her behavior, or if they fail to report it to a district psychologist and your child commits suicide, you may be able to file a wrongful death suit.
Psychiatrists, physicians, and other healthcare staff may be liable for your child's suicide. Liability depends on the same legal principles used in a malpractice case, and it requires you to prove that:
- The doctor had a duty to protect your child from harm
- The duty was breached
- The breach of duty caused your child's suicide
Wrongful death suits involving suicide and medical malpractice are usually filed by parents or the victim's estate, and healthcare professionals can face lawsuits in cases where they fail to identify a child's risk of suicide or when preventive measures are not taken. Talk with Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel for more information about wrongful death suits.Share