Suicide is a huge topic. Views on suicide are influenced by religion and culture. I think in most cases it’s a last resort to address pain.

Virtually everyone has or will be affected by suicide. Almost a million people kill themselves every year.

People over 70 are the most likely to kill themselves.

But depression, chronic pain and substance abuse are risk factors for people of all ages. Those are also risk factors following a mTBI (mild traumatic brain injury). And, predictably, people who have suffered one or more mTBIs are at a higher risk of killing themselves.

Because the risk factors for suicide intertwine with many of the symptoms experienced after a personal injury (especially one involving mTBI) it’s unavoidable that some personal injury claimants will kill themselves before their cases have resolved.

When that happens does the suicide cut-off the defendant’s responsibility? Or is the suicide simply a foreseeable response to the symptoms caused by the defendant’s negligence and something for which the defendant is responsible?

In Washington there are two scenarios where the defendant is responsible:

1. When the suicide results from an act committed in “delirium or frenzy.”

2. When an uncontrollable impulse—resulting from a mental condition caused by the underlying injuries—impels the suicide.

The language used by commentators and courts is unfortunate. It’s stilted and old-fashioned, bringing to mind movies like Gaslight.

But once you get past the nomenclature, it makes sense. If someone has intractable pain the defendant should not be excused from responsibility because the injured person seeks the only remaining relief available to them: death.

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