To determine the cause and manner of a person’s death, an autopsy is often performed. Autopsies are not mandatory for every death, but often, these surgical procedures are required in suspicious and unexpected deaths. These circumstances are often associated with homicides and suspected deaths, but autopsies may also be ordered in illness or injury cases.
When family members are lost unexpectedly because of accidents or questionable situations, the family may be consumed by bereavement. Legal action may not even be considered. In wrongful death cases, autopsy reports can be invaluable evidence, but when autopsies are not done, other supporting evidence may be available to deliver a successful claim.
An Atlanta wrongful death attorney at John Foy & Associates takes these cases seriously. We approach them with compassion and concerted efforts to explain the process as the case progresses. A wrongful death lawyer in Atlanta has 20-plus years of fighting for the decedent’s family and protecting their rights.
Autopsies and Wrongful Death Claims
You do not need the results of an autopsy to file a wrongful death claim, but if there is suspicion that someone’s untimely death was the result of another person’s negligence, a post-mortem physical exam can be beneficial. Additional details and vital information concerning a person’s cause of death can be gained from an autopsy.
There needs to be substantial evidence connecting the person’s death to another party’s negligent or willful misconduct in a wrongful death case. Causation is more challenging to prove if a medical exam is not performed.
Even though autopsies are not a legal requirement for wrongful death claims, consulting an attorney can help decide if there is enough evidence to support a claim without an autopsy report. It is usually beneficial to ask for an autopsy if there is any suspicion of careless or reckless activity involved, especially in cases involving:
- Auto accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace accidents
Get the strong arm
Cases Requiring an Autopsy
Different states have varying guidelines, but in most cases, when there is an unknown cause of death or suspected foul play, an autopsy can be ordered by authorities without the consent of the decedent’s next of kin. Typically, the types of cases that do not require consent involve:
- Accidental deaths
- Deaths resulting from suspected domestic violence
- Deaths associated with suspected sexual crimes
- Deaths occurring during the commission of another crime
- Drowning victims
- Fire or explosion victims
- Hit and run
- Abnormal or unnatural deaths
- Sudden deaths when the deceased was in seemingly good health
- Being in the custody of foster care, law enforcement, state agencies, or mental institutions
Autopsies ordered by authorities are referred to as forensic autopsies. These post-mortem medical exams are used to gather details surrounding the death and determine the manner and cause of death.
Authorities in government offices occasionally order autopsies when a public health hazard is suspected as the cause of a person’s death. These types of orders are typically issued when the cause of death is believed to be the result of:
- Toxic exposure
- Exposure to poison or toxic agents
- Infectious diseases
The Process of an Autopsy
When an autopsy is ordered, a medical examiner (ME) or forensic pathologist evaluates the decedent’s body and conducts the exam in the medical examiner’s or coroner’s office. In cases involving the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), a medical examiner performs an autopsy as soon as possible after the deceased’s body arrives.
Once complete, the ME typically lists the cause and manner of death in a final Autopsy Report. This usually takes about four weeks unless there were complications or additional testing was needed. These reports are typically issued in six to 10 weeks.
Steps in Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
If a loved one dies and there is suspicion that the death resulted from another party’s inaction, negligence, or misconduct—the family has the right, under Georgia Law, to file a wrongful death claim. This process is not always simple. To clarify things, you should follow the steps below.
As long as the death occurred within Georgia’s statute of limitations, reach out to an experienced wrongful death attorney for advice. A compassionate lawyer can console a bereaved family while looking realistically at a wrongful death claim to see if it is viable and legally eligible to file. Under current laws, who can file a claim for the deceased is limited to:
- Representatives of the decedent’s estate
After working with legal representation to determine claim eligibility, a claim needs to be prepared. A lawyer can help:
- Investigate the circumstances of a death
- Collect supporting evidence
- Determine who is legally liable for the death
- Calculate the damages suffered as a result of the death
Because most wrongful death cases settle out of court, an attorney can act as an advocate for a family’s best interests and negotiate for a settlement with any liable parties, their legal representation, or their insurance company.
If the liable parties do not agree to a reasonable settlement and the case is applicable, an attorney can also file a legal complaint and take the case to court.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Atlanta Today
More than 20 years of experience have seasoned the Atlanta wrongful death attorney at John Foy & Associates. We are knowledgeable enough to understand when a family needs us to step up and offer a helping hand.
If you suspect your loved one may be the victim of wrongful death, our team of wrongful death lawyers in Atlanta can address any concerns and answer any questions you may have. We can work with you through the entire process—from the initial consultation to filing a wrongful death claim to resolving the case and getting you the compensation your family deserves.
We will be by your side on this road, seeking justice and fighting for the compensation your family needs to recover from this loss. Contact us today for a free consultation.