Do You Need an Autopsy for Wrongful Death Suits?

By Chris Dixon


If a person dies because of another person’s negligence, the victim’s immediate family members have the right to file a wrongful death suit, but their claim needs to be supported by significant evidence from the accident and include a copy of the victim’s autopsy. An autopsy provides detailed information about the cause of death and can be used by an experienced wrongful death lawyer to prove that the other party is responsible for the victim’s death and is required to compensate the victim’s family for damages.

Is an Autopsy Required for Wrongful Death Suits?

An autopsy is almost always required when filing a wrongful death suit. An autopsy can be used in a fatal accident to show that the negligent party is responsible for the victim’s damages, and is a powerful piece of evidence when filing a wrongful death suit with an experienced lawyer. While evidence from the scene of the accident and an official death certificate are excellent examples of evidence that should be included in a wrongful death suit, nothing is more powerful than an autopsy.

Autopsies are incredibly detailed medical reports that are based on an internal and external examination of the victim’s body and can provide insight on what caused the victim’s death, when the victim’s death happened, and other elements that could have been at play in causing the victim’s death. Without an autopsy, it can be nearly impossible to prove that the other person involved in the accident is responsible for the victim’s fatal injuries, which is a core element in winning a wrongful death suit.

How Can An Autopsy Help with a Wrongful Death Suit?

When someone dies in an accident that is caused by another person’s negligence, a wrongful death suit could recover damages that affect the victim’s surviving family members. If a victim dies because of a medication error, car accident, intentional harm from another person, or another act of negligence, an autopsy can prove that the hospital, another driver, or another party is responsible for the victim’s damages. Some examples of elements that an autopsy can find include:

  • Whether the victim’s death was caused by a natural cause
  • If the deceased was killed by external or internal factors
  • If another person caused the victim’s death
  • When the victim was killed

An autopsy is generally performed right after a victim’s death. If the victim’s body isn’t examined relatively soon after the accident, evidence can deteriorate and become ineligible to use to support a claim. When someone dies, and the victim’s family believes that foul play was involved in their death, or that the details surrounding their death seem lacking, immediate family members can request an autopsy. If an autopsy is done, and the deceased’s relatives wish to file a wrongful death claim against the person believed to be responsible for the victim’s death, a lawyer can use information from the autopsy to support the family’s claim and prove that the negligent party is required to compensate the victim’s family for damages.

What Happens After an Autopsy is Done for a Wrongful Death Suit?

Each autopsy process is different, but the average time it takes for an autopsy report to come back is between four to eight weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of the most common causes of death that are reported in autopy results are assault and medication errors (accident poisoning).

Once an autopsy comes back, the person that requested the autopsy will receive a copy that can be used to file a wrongful death suit against the other party involved, bring a survivorship claim, or both, with the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer depending on the state’s wrongful death laws. Wrongful death laws are different for each state in the U.S., and while a victim’s heirs might be able to file both a wrongful death and survivorship claim in one state, in another it could be one or the other. Consulting a lawyer about the accident as soon as possible after it occurs can determine whether surviving family members can file a claim, determine what damages they could recover, and help file a compelling claim for the victim’s pain and suffering.

How Can a Lawyer Help with My Wrongful Death Suit?

If you requested an autopsy after your family member was killed in an accident, and findings suggest that another person caused the victim’s death, you could be eligible to file a wrongful death suit to recover compensation. In most states, a wrongful death suit can be presented by a victim’s immediate family members, such as their spouse, children, or parents, and in some states, their grandparents or siblings. If you are interested in filing a claim for your family member’s death, but are unsure whether you need an autopsy for wrongful death suits, contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to discuss your case and receive more information on the wrongful death suit process.

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