Sadly, suicide is a prevalent societal epidemic that affects thousands of families and loved ones each year. Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life intentionally, and generally stems from emotional and mental health issues and struggles. The question that continues to arise, as the number of suicides continue to rise each year, is the question of legal liability. Are certain people to blame, or simply liable, for a person who kills themselves? Continue reading to explore this topic in more detail.
Duty of Care
Overall, it is a person’s own choice to end their lives, and many will find ways to do this even if other’s attempt to step in and help. For the most part, no one can truly stop a person from committing suicide; however, in other circumstances, it is possible for a person to be legally responsible for a victim of suicide. This includes parents, caregivers, guardians, medical professionals, or even school officials. The underlying legal matter is referred to as negligent supervision.
People in the above roles have a legal “duty of care” to responsibly monitor, care, or supervise a person in their custody to prevent them from harm. Whether a patient in the care of nurses or doctors or a child in the care of their own mother or father, there is a legal standard of care. If a student chooses to kill themselves on school grounds, it could be argued that certain school officials neglected their duty to responsibly “supervise” and care for said student. After all, the student would have to find a way to remove themselves from adult supervision to carry out their suicide on school property. It is the school’s legal responsibility to provide safe and supervised environments for all students and faculty included. This includes protecting kids from severe bullying that could lead to mental health issues and eventual suicide attempts. Also, if school officials, like counselors or nurses, are aware of a child’s suicidal considerations, it is their duty to thoroughly inform the parents right away.
As for parents of children that commit suicide, they could face possible charged for the crime of risking injury to a minor for an unhealthy home. Parents are expected by courts and government officials to provide necessary mental health treatment, as well as, standard medical care, for their children’s well-being and safety. If a parent knows their child suffered from mental health issues and does nothing to address it, it could be argued that parents, or legal guardians, neglected this “duty” that resulted in their child’s suicide. Until a child or minor reaches the age of 18, or becomes emancipated, they are legally under the care and responsibility of their parents of legal guardians. An exception to this rule would be a child that is mentally or physically handicapped and dependent on their guardians even after reaching the “age of majority.”
Aside from school officials and legal guardians, other people might be help legally liable for a person’s suicide under certain circumstances. Psychiatrists, medical doctors, nurses, and similar health care professionals also carry a particular “duty of care” for their patients. All of this strictly depends on the specific circumstances, as well as, establishing that there was a duty of care in a doctor-patient relationship.
It is important to consult a licensed personal injury lawyer for advice and guidance pertaining to cases such as these. If you believe your child or loved one was a victim of negligence that resulted in suicide or serious injury, you may be legally entitled to compensation for your damages. Contact a licensed accident attorney to learn your rights.