Mapleton, UT asked in Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury for Utah

Q: My brother committed suicide by shooting himself. Can his widow get life insurance?

My brother had 2 difficult rounds of chemo after a cancer diagnosis. Alongside rigorous cancer treatment, he was prescribed Xanax. Some studies have shown there to be links between suicidal thoughts as a side effect of Xanax. Could a case be made that his prescription and use of Xanax could’ve led to him carrying out his suicide and entitle has widow to his life insurance or does she have a case against Big Pharma for the use of a psych med that led to an untimely end?

2 Lawyer Answers

A: I'm so sorry for the loss of your brother.

For your sister-in-law to be eligible for life insurance benefits there are a couple things you'd need to know. First, do you know if your brother had a life insurance policy? For his widow to receive life insurance benefits, there would have had to be an insurance policy in place before he died (either a policy he got through work (a group policy) or a policy he and his wife bought on their own (an individual policy)).

Assuming there is an insurance policy, the terms of the insurance policy will control. Many insurance policies include exclusions for suicide, so you'll want to look carefully at the policy's exclusions. Some policies only apply the suicide exclusion for 2 years - meaning that if the suicide occurred after the policy was in effect for at least 2 years, then the insurer will still pay benefits (assuming no other exclusions or limitations apply in the policy). But you'd need to know for sure what the terms of the policy actually says.

As far as making a case against Xanax, that's not really a life insurance question. That's more of a products liability question - and you'd be better suited asking a lawyer in the products liability forum whether or not the creator of Xanax can be held liable for your brother's death.

Daniel S. Garner
Daniel S. Garner
  • Medical Malpractice Lawyer
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Licensed in Utah

A: I'm so sorry for your loss, suicide doesn't necessarily preclude your sister-in-law from collecting on the insurance. It is important to read over the policy to make that determination.

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