A wrongful death refers to any death that is the result of the willful or negligent act of another person or entity. When a wrongful death occurs, the family of the victim may legally seek financial compensation for their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful deaths include car accident deaths, slip and falls, dog bite deaths, medical malpractice deaths, deaths from crimes, and any other death that is the direct result of another person’s wrongful or reckless behavior. We think of suicide as the result of an individual’s wrongful behavior towards himself. It would seem that suicide, an individual’s choice to take his own life, could not be considered a wrongful death, but this is not always true.

Last year, suicide surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. About 90 percent of these deaths were associated with mental illness. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with proper mental health care. In fact, some of these victims were receiving care, but not the care they needed. A medical professional may be held accountable for a suicide if:

  • The doctor misdiagnosed or failed to properly identify the risk of suicide
  • The doctor knew the patient was suicidal, but failed or refused to take measures to prevent suicide, including involuntary commitment to a mental health facility
  • The doctor knew that a minor patient was suicidal, but failed to notify the patient’s parents or guardians of the suicide risk
  • A patient in crisis was not able to get an appointment or speak to his therapist
  • The doctor prescribed a medication that increases the risk of suicide
  • The doctor prescribed an improper dose of a medication linked to suicide

Like doctors, if a counselor, teacher, or caregiver knows that a person is considering suicide, he or she has a legal duty to act to prevent that suicide. If a teen tells a teacher that he just wants to die, or even writes an essay indicating suicidal thoughts, that teacher has a duty to alert the parents and the school. The school should have procedures in place for dealing with mental health emergencies.

Unfortunately many recent suicides have been linked to school bullying. Schools should have a no-tolerance attitude to the bullying of students. If a child commits suicide because bullying has made attending school intolerable, schools can be held accountable.

Sometimes no one is liable for a suicide, but sometimes a suicide is a wrongful death. To learn more about Wisconsin wrongful death claims, contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678 and ask to speak with a Milwaukee wrongful death attorney. The initial consultation is free.

Jason F. Abraham
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Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.