Increase in Sunshine Skyway Suicides Bring Awareness to Liability Issues

The Sunshine Skyway is one of the most impressive sights in Tampa Bay. Passing through the waters of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties, the bridge is 430 feet tall and spans four miles across. This makes it a perfect place to catch a stunning view of the breathtaking scenery and sparkling waters. Even Floridians who hate heights— and those who remember the horror of the original bridge’s collapse in 1980— can probably admit that the bridge is part of our iconic landscape. At the very least, it is a convenient way to get across the bay.

But the Sunshine Skyway can also be a place of darkness. Last year, 13 people died by jumping off the bridge, making 2017 the worst year for bridge suicides since 2003.

Suicide in Tampa Bay and Beyond

In 2017, twelve people committed suicide by jumping from the Sunshine Skyway. A thirteenth death is unconfirmed. The victims include a 64-year-old man, a 55-year-old husband, and a 28-year-old man, potentially racked with guilt over his involvement in a fatal crash. Only five of the deaths were women. This is on par with national statistics, which report that men are 3.57 times more likely than women to die by suicide.

Across the nation, suicide is a major issue. It is the 10th leading cause of death, with 44,965 Americans dying every year. It affects people of all ages, genders, and races. But certain groups, like middle aged white men, LGBT+ youth, and people struggling with substance abuse, are more prone to suicide.

Lawsuit over Sunshine Skyway Death

As these statistics show, Tampa Bay is far from the only place in the United States with a suicide issue. But in the face of this recent rash of suicides, some Tampa Bay residents want to see changes. One victim’s widow is even taking legal action to draw attention to the topic of suicide in Tampa Bay. Two days before her husband jumped from the Sunshine Skyway in 2017, he was released from a local hospital. He had been committed by the Baker Act after a previous suicide attempt. His wife is now suing the hospital. She believes that it was negligent to release him so quickly, considering his previous attempt and mental state.

This case is unique. However, it’s not the first time a medical provider has been accused in a patient’s suicide. In 2008, a lawsuit over a Florida woman’s suicide was brought to the Florida Supreme Court. There, it was found that her doctor’s failure to see her, even after being informed that the patient had stopped taking her medications, played a role in her death.

Determining a Doctor’s Role

Determining negligence for a patient’s suicide can be a nuanced topic. But like in any other case involving a medical provider’s liability, there must be proof that:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The medical professional violated the standard of care
  • The patient suffered harm
  • The violation directly caused the patient’s harm

Suicide is often a complex topic, and never an easy one. When a case involves trying to hold someone else, like a medical provider, liable for a loved one’s suicide, it becomes even more complex, although it is still important to seek justice, compensation, and answers. While 2017 might have been a bad year for Tampa Bay area suicides from the Sunshine Skyway, there is still hope that critical topics, like the role of medical providers in a patient’s suicide, will be addressed in 2018.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation or know someone who needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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