Personal Injury accidents can have life altering effects on the person who is injured. Sometimes, the problems that the person suffers exceed the physical injuries that have occurred. When a person goes from being active and unimpaired one day to infirmed the next, it is impossible for the person to not have some depression about the change in life circumstances. In some of these cases, the injured person becomes so depressed by the changes in his or her life circumstances that they lose the will to live. In these cases, New York law has stipulated that if the person filing a wrongful death suit must be able to show that there is a causal link between the person’s suicide and the injury that they received at work.
One case that involved this type of wrongful death action involved a man who was injured twice at work. He was injured 14 years before his death and then again five years before his death. In 1945, the decedent was an usher at a movie theatre when a fight broke out in the men’s room. He attempted to break up the fight and was pushed into a marble wall, and suffered a brain injury. He was diagnosed with a cerebral concussion as a result of the accident and eleven days later a workers’ compensation doctor announced that he was fully recovered. His wife claims that although he went back to work. Her husband suffered from headaches blackouts, and fainting spells following this accident.
The second accident occurred in 1959 in Nassau, when he suffered a debilitating back injury while at work. The back injury changed his lifestyle and caused him to plummet into a state of deep depression. His wife stated that it was this deep depression that led him to take his own life. The workers compensation board disagreed. They contend that this man was suffering from many issues that affected his mental stability long before he took his own life. They contend that he was suffering from mental illness before he had his first work place injury in 1945.
The workers compensation board attorneys state that it was his life story that pointed to their contention that his work place injury had nothing to do with his suicide. They testified that his birth was the result of the rape of his mother who was crippled. She could not stand the sight of him after his birth and gave him up for adoption. He was raised in foster care and had medical problems from birth. He suffered from painful rickets as a small child because of his poor nutrition. He had surgery in 1940 for a polyp in his right ear. Four years later he was hospitalized because of a severe bout of renal colic. He remained in the hospital for a month. The year before his first industrial accident, he voluntarily admitted himself into the Queens General Mental Hygiene Clinic for anxiety and back pain. He told the medical personnel at that time that he had fallen off of a stoop three years before. He told them that as a result of the fall, he would get panicky and have black outs. He told them that he would have occasions of blindness that would occur about twice a day and that he suffered from headaches every day. He also told them that he had strange dreams and nightmares. The board maintained that while the causes of suicide are many, this man was headed in that direction long before his first industrial accident.
The court in Suffolk did not agree. They reviewed all of the associated evidence and determined that while this man clearly had other issues to deal with, the change in life circumstances that occurred following his back injury were dramatic. The depression that resulted was well documented and the Supreme Court ruled that the death was associated to the personal injury.