When a loved one's death is due to suicide, families are left to cope with their loss and try to make sense of what has occurred. While there will be mourning and many unanswered questions, in most cases those left to grieve may not think to turn to the legal system in response to their loved one’s actions. However, there are circumstances which may warrant filing a civil lawsuit premised upon the deceased person’s death being due to someone else’s liability. Here is what you need to know about filing a wrongful death claim after a loved one commits suicide:
Florida Law and Wrongful Death Actions
Someone seeking to hold another person legally accountable for their loved one’s suicide can file a civil action for wrongful death. In Florida, someone trying to file this claim must do so within two years of the person’s passing. However, depending on the circumstances, this time limit may be tolled if certain conditions are present.
Causation and Suicide
A key element of a wrongful death action in connection with a suicide is demonstrating that the accused person’s conduct is linked directly to the deceased person’s decision. This can be challenging as the person who committed suicide is the person who took the most direct action to cause their own death. In assessing the accused person's culpability, it will be important to examine how much their acts or omissions contributed to the deceased person’s choice and if they could have reasonably known that their behavior could have contributed to the suicide. For example, if a person repeatedly encouraged another person to kill themselves knowing that the person was suicidal and had a plan to commit suicide, they may be sufficiently connected to the act.
Other Factors to Consider
Once a person’s relationship to the suicide is established it will be essential to determine other important details. For instance, if the deceased person had ongoing communications through text, email, or verbal conversations with the accused person about their intentions, this could be evidence of their knowledge about what was going to happen. It will also be important to discern how recently the deceased person expressed their intentions to the other person and if they had made other attempts in the past. Also, you will need to identify if other people knew the same information. If so, you will need to consider what makes this particular individual more responsible than the others. If you believe that the accused person's actions pushed your loved one to take their own life, it will be critical to examine exactly how they pressured them and how often they did so.
Wrongful death cases require a great deal of evidence in general. When the person has committed suicide, this burden is increased because it was the individual who took action to cause their own death. Consequently, the success of these cases will largely depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your loved one’s passing.
We understand the issues families encounter following a loved one's untimely death and can provide guidance during this challenging time. If you believe you have lost a loved one due to another person's conduct, please, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We invite you to learn more about our firm here.