State trooper’s children get death benefits after father’s suicide
Shooting event deemed proximate cause
The Injured Person
Clayton was a newly commissioned State Trooper who was involved in a fatal shooting during his first week of patrolling. He was profoundly impacted and traumatized by the experience, and subsequently took his own life.
The Facts of the Case
During a routine traffic stop, the driver got out of the car and began fighting with Clayton and seized his service weapon. Clayton was able to regain control of the gun and ended up shooting the suspect in the struggle.
Even though he was exonerated for his role in the shooting, Clayton was intensely upset by the experience. His personality changed dramatically as a result of the trauma, and he ended up losing his family as a result of his altered personality. Six years after the incident, Clayton took his own life.
Clayton’s family filed a worker’s compensation claim, which was originally denied by the sole member of the Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana. The reason for the denied claim was that the injury was self-inflicted and that the death occurred more than two years after the initial incident. The experienced attorneys at Klezmer Maudlin, PC helped the family appeal the decision to the full board and represent them through subsequent appeals to the Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court.
Worker’s Compensation attorney Randy Klezmer retained a psychologist to conduct a post-mortem autopsy which revealed that the shooting incident that occurred during Clayton’s first week of patrol set off a chain of events that led to his suicide. The original hearing with the Sole member found that Clayton’s children were not entitled to death benefits. However, on appeal, the Full Board reversed that decision, stating that the evidence was clear that the initial shooting incident was the proximate cause of the Clayton’s suicide and that his children had two years from the date of death (not from the incident that led to his depression and changed personality) to file their claim. The Indiana Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Full Board.
The result was that the Clayton’s children shared an award of 500 weeks of compensation. Even more importantly, they were validated in their belief that their father’s death was a result of the trauma from his on-the-job experience.