Can an injured worker collect workers compensation benefits if they commit suicide?
Workers Compensation benefits for employee who commits suicide
Suicide is an affirmative defense that, if successfully argued, will render a death claim noncompensable. The Court of Appeal found an exception that would act to render the death compensable. The court stated that benefits may be awarded when suicide is attributed to an irresistible or uncontrollable impulse resulting from the industrial injury. Accordingly, numerous cases have found deaths resulting from suicides to be compensable when the effects of an industrial injury resulted in an irresistible impulse to commit suicide.
When an employee’s death occurs as a result of a suicide, there is invariably a dispute as to whether the claim is noncompensable, or compensable as a result of an irresistible impulse caused by an industrial injury. Testimony from dependents, family members and other lay persons probably will be presented in these cases, the appeals board has made it clear that expert medical opinion, not lay testimony, is needed to determine industrial causation. Lay testimony is allowed and may be used to corroborate medical findings. Lay testimony is a two-edged sword– if a physician relies on information provided by a witness to reach a conclusion of industrial death, and the judge finds the witness’ testimony not to be credible, then the judge may find the death to be nonindustrial. If the medical opinion itself is not credible, it can not be relied on as substantial evidence to support an award for death benefits in a suicide case.