While an autopsy is not required to file for wrongful death in Florida, it is often critical to succeed in a wrongful death case.
If there are grounds to dispute the cause of death, an autopsy is important because it is a professional opinion about the cause of death, supported by evidence.
When Is an Autopsy Required in Florida?
Under Florida Statutes § 406.11, an autopsy is required in Florida where the medical examiner must determine a cause of death. Common situations are accidental deaths, suspicious circumstances, death in custody and when a sudden, unexpected death occurs.
Public and Private Autopsies in Florida Wrongful Death Claims
State officials may conduct an autopsy. A qualified professional, chosen by government officials, would conduct the autopsy. If they do, it’s paid for by the state. There is no cost to the family.
Next of kin may also choose to have a private autopsy. They may elect to have a private autopsy whether or not the state does an autopsy. The cost of a private autopsy falls to the family, but the proceeds of a wrongful death claim may cover expenses.
Are autopsies mandatory?
An autopsy may be mandatory when a death is:
- Criminal violence
- Sudden, in apparent good health
- Unattended by a physician
- Unusual circumstances
- On-the-job, employment-related
- In jail or police
- Affecting public health
How much does an autopsy cost in Florida?
A private autopsy in Florida costs approximately $6,000. If state officials order an autopsy at public expense, there is no cost to the family.
Can you object to an autopsy in Florida?
Florida allows state officials to determine whether an autopsy is needed to determine a cause of death. While they accept objections from next of kin on religious grounds, objections are handled on a case-by-case basis. Officials make the final determination of whether to proceed.
If you have an autopsy, can you still have a funeral?
An autopsy doesn’t interfere with having a funeral. Most of the time, incisions can be covered with positioning and clothing. If this is a concern you have, we advise you to talk with the funeral home about your concerns.
How do I request a private autopsy?
To request a private autopsy, contact a person or company that conducts them. They will direct you on how to request their services.
Should I request a private autopsy?
It might seem clear why someone died – in a car accident or an accident at work, for example. However, an autopsy may be important in any wrongful death claim. In addition, it may provide answers if there may have been medical malpractice, if you have questions about the circumstances of a death or if there is a possibility that a genetic condition may have contributed to the person’s death.
Can the state keep the body after an autopsy?
State officials may not keep a body for research or for a purpose other than determining the cause of death, without approval from next of kin.
How do I get a copy of an autopsy report?
To get a copy of an autopsy report, contact the medical examiner’s office for the district that performed the autopsy.
How do I get a copy of a death certificate?
To get a copy of a death certificate, contact the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics or the funeral home making arrangements for the person.
What if the cause of death says pending?
If the cause of death following an autopsy says pending, examiners are conducting additional tests or laboratory work to determine the cause of death.
What if the person has already been embalmed – is it too late for an autopsy?
It may still be possible to get valuable information and evidence from an autopsy even if embalming is complete. However, it’s best to arrange for an autopsy right away.
Can the Cost of an Autopsy Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
An autopsy is considered an investigative expense in a Florida wrongful death claim. There are limited circumstances where investigative expenses may be directly taxed as a cost of litigation. However, the funds paid for an autopsy may be recovered from the proceeds of a wrongful death claim and the damages received in compensation.
Ask our lawyers for a consultation about autopsy expenses and what compensation you may receive from a wrongful death claim.
Talk to a Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer
The evidence you gather early can help the case. A lawyer can help. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Sometimes, it’s important to have a private autopsy – but not always. Our experienced lawyers can give you a personalized consultation about your situation. We can discuss if a private autopsy is right for you. We can evaluate what has happened and give you personalized advice.
If you have lost a loved one, our lawyers are available to answer your questions about getting an autopsy and the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim. Call us at (305) 520-5690 or send us a message online.