Do You Need an Autopsy to File for Wrongful Death?

Free Case Evaluation
100% Secure and Confidential
Google Rated

When you are trying to prove a wrongful death case, causation is one of the crucial elements.

You must show that the defendant was the one responsible for the death of your loved one.

A jury or insurance company may require various types of proof that show causation. One key piece of evidence in a wrongful death case is an autopsy performed on the deceased. However, that is not always available to use.

If your loved one passed away unexpectedly, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer at Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys to discuss your case.

When an Autopsy Must Be Performed Under North Carolina Law

North Carolina law makes an autopsy mandatory under certain situations:

  • Violence, poisoning, accident, suicide or homicide
  • Suddenly, when the deceased had been in apparent good health or when unattended by a physician
  • Occurring under any suspicious, unusual or unnatural circumstance.

In most cases, a death that would occur under circumstances considered “wrongful” likely would result in an autopsy performed by the medical examiner. In other words, the autopsy would usually occur as a matter of law.

There are times when authorities may order an autopsy. For example, there may be foul play suspected, and authorities would need to know the cause of death to understand whether to press charges. The family may decide to have an autopsy performed, both for their own knowledge and for help in an eventual wrongful death case.

An Autopsy Does Not Always Happen

However, there may be some circumstances in which an autopsy may not occur.

First, someone may not have followed the law to perform an autopsy before the body was buried. Second, the family may have objected to the autopsy based on religious reasons.

While the medical examiner makes the final call about whether to perform an autopsy, they will consider a family objection based on religious or personal reasons.

While preliminary results may be available within a few days after an autopsy, the final report may not be available for a few weeks. You may need to wait until you have the final report to file the wrongful death lawsuit because it would most likely have evidence you need.

Why an Autopsy Can Help Your Wrongful Death Case

Your wrongful death case is all about the strength of the evidence. You must prove that someone else was to blame for your loved one’s death before you are in a position to receive financial compensation.

In order to prove a wrongful death case, you need to show the following:

  • Your loved one died
  • Their death was wrongful
  • Someone else caused the death
  • Your family suffered injuries

The key part is often proving the wrongful element of death. You would either need to show that the defendant acted negligently, recklessly or intentionally caused your loved one’s death.

In most cases, proof of negligence would suffice. In any negligence case, you need to prove each of these four elements:

  • The defendant owed your loved one of duty of care
  • They breach the duty by acting unreasonably under the circumstances
  • Your family member suffered an injury
  • The injury would not have occurred had it not been for the actions of the defendant

Much of the focus may be on whether the defendant was the cause of your loved one’s death. In close cases, it is not always certain why your loved one died, and you may need to prove the cause.

When Autopsies May Not Be Critical to Your Case

An autopsy is often extremely helpful in proving certain types of wrongful death cases. There may be instances where you do not need an autopsy.

For example, if your loved one was completely healthy, and they were killed in a car accident, you may not need an autopsy to prove the cause of death. However, there may be other close cases where the defendant may contest that they were responsible for your loved one’s death.

For example, autopsies are highly vital in medical malpractice cases where a doctor is claiming that your loved one would have died anyway regardless of what they did. The same thing is true in a nursing home abuse lawsuit when you are not entirely sure why your loved one died.

Then, the autopsy may provide crucial evidence that you can use to demonstrate causation.

The coroner would determine the exact causes of your loved one’s death, and you can use the report to show that the defendant was responsible for what happened.

Autopsies May Also Provide Challenges to Your Case

Autopsies are not always strong evidence for your personal injury case. You may face a challenge if the defendant is arguing that your loved one may not have lived much longer based on what may have been found during the autopsy.

For example, if an autopsy revealed that your loved one suffered from severe heart disease, the defendant may argue that you deserve less in a wrongful death case.

If an autopsy cannot be performed, it may not necessarily be the end of any type of wrongful death case. You should still always file a wrongful death claim and hope that you have enough evidence that can persuade an insurance company to pay or a jury to award you financial compensation.

If the insurance company denies your claim, perhaps based on the lack of an autopsy, you may be able to file a lawsuit in court against the responsible party and have the jury decide the matter.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer in North Carolina Today

If your loved one died in an accident, your family may be entitled to substantial financial compensation. The lawyers at Horton & Mendez Injury Attorneys can work to prove that someone else was to blame for what happened to your family member, and they will fight for compensation on your behalf.

To speak to one of our experienced attorneys, you can message us through our website or call us today at 910-405-7751. We offer free consultations to prospective clients, and you pay us nothing unless you win your case.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
100% Secure and Confidential