Defendants in wrongful death lawsuits use a variety of defenses to prove they are not liable for someone's death. One is called the suicide defense. This is when the defendant claims the decedent was trying to intentionally kill him or herself when the accident that caused the person's death occurred. This type of defense is typically seen in cases where it would appear plausible (e.g. vehicle accidents). Here's more information about this defense and what you need to do to effectively dispute it.
The Impact on the Case
It may seem absurd the defendant would assert your loved one was trying to take his or her own life, but someone who may not have a viable defense may try to use the suicide defense as a last resort. Typically what happens in this type of situation is the defendant will sift through your loved one's life and cherry pick evidence that supports his or her claim. For instance, if your loved one was suffering from depression, the defendant may cite that as evidence the person was in a suicidal state of mind.
If the defendant makes a compelling enough case, the court may rule in favor of the defendant or assign partial liability to the decedent, which can result in you being awarded reduced compensation for damages and losses or losing the case altogether.
Countering the Claims
The first step to countering the suicidal defense is to show your loved one's state of mind at the time the incident occurred is irrelevant to the case. For instance, the defendant ran a red light and t-boned your loved one's vehicle at an intersection. In this situation, how your loved was feeling or what the person was thinking likely had little to no bearing on why the accident happened.
The other way to counter claims of suicidal ideation is to dispute your loved one was in that state of mind. If the defendant points to erratic behavior the decedent was displaying before the accident happened, show the behavior could have been caused by something else besides the intent to commit suicide. For example, the defendant claims the decedent was crying. Show the decedent could have been teary-eyed over other things such as allergies or frustration.
It'll also help your case if you can produce evidence the decedent was of sound mind when the incident occurred. You could submit reports from a medical or mental health doctor, for instance, describing the person's condition.
For more information about countering this particular defense or assistance with litigating a wrongful death case, contact a personal injury attorney. Contact a business, such as The Gil Law Firm, for more information.