South Carolina Wrongful Death Lawyer Discuss the Role of Autopsies as Evidence

When tragedy strikes, grieving families can be left with a lot of questions and uncertainty. If you feel you can make the case for a wrongful death claim, you may wonder if you need to get an autopsy. With wrongful death cases in South Carolina, the necessity of an autopsy is nuanced. To gain insight into your particular case, speak with the knowledgeable South Carolina wrongful death attorneys at Pracht Injury Lawyers. We can assess your legal claim and explain your options to pursue rightful compensation.  

SC Autopsy Requirements and Wrongful Death Lawsuits

“No” is the short answer as to whether an autopsy is required for a wrongful death suit in South Carolina. However, while you can file a claim without one, an autopsy can be beneficial if you want to win your wrongful death case. 

Outside of legal compensation claims, South Carolina law dictates when a coroner or medical examiner (ME) must conduct an autopsy. For instance, if a child dies in a fatal drowning accident, they typically request an autopsy to be performed. The autopsy isn’t needed for a wrongful death lawsuit, but it will likely be completed anyway. South Carolina Code of Laws Title 17, Chapter 7 discusses some of these requirements concerning autopsies and inquests on the dead. For example, Section 17-7-10 states that autopsies must be ordered if someone dies while in jail, prison, or other state correctional facilities. Section 17-7-80 requires an autopsy for any death from a motor vehicle, swimming, or boating accident.  

Title 17, Chapter 5 of the South Carolina Code of Laws outlines further requirements. Section 17-5-530 lists several scenarios where the coroner’s office must be notified. Examples include if the person dies as the result of violence, suicide, or “in any suspicious or unusual manner.” This is especially relevant to wrongful death cases where negligence may be the cause of death. Examples may include workplace accidents, deaths from public health hazards, and medical malpractice cases. 

Why an Autopsy Serves as Strong Evidence for Your Claim

While it’s not strictly required to file a claim, an autopsy report plays a major role in helping you win a wrongful death case. With a thorough medical examination, a coroner names the cause of death with some level of confidence. The post-mortem report may also offer some evidence to show how the accident contributed to or directly caused the death. 

Remember: you bear the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit. This comprises many factors. Take a fatal automobile accident, for example. To win your case, you must prove who was at fault for the car crash. You must also prove the other party was negligent in their behavior and your loved one died as a direct result of the incident. While an autopsy may not prove fault in a car accident, it may be able to prove the death was the result of injuries suffered from the crash and not some other cause. 

Without a medical post-mortem, it may be more difficult to prove causation. An autopsy can be strong evidence in cases of nursing home neglect and abuse. It can help to eliminate other possible reasons as to why your family member or friend passed away, including due to natural causes. 

Evidence to Prove Wrongful Death to Recover Damages

It’s important to note that not all accidental deaths are deemed wrongful deaths. So, whether or not you secure an autopsy, it’s vital to collect as much evidence in support of your claim as possible. By working with your wrongful death attorney at Pracht Injury Lawyers, we’ll help you gather crucial evidence such as:

  • Photos and videos from the accident scene
  • Eyewitness testimony and reports
  • Hospital and treatment records, like for a medical malpractice lawsuit
  • Other medical history to rule out pre-existing conditions 
  • Swimming pool maintenance records, like for a fatal drowning accident claim
  • Laws and rules demonstrating the expected duty of care
  • Expert testimony to explain technical information
  • Police reports
  • Internal accident reports
  • Pay stubs and expense records to calculate wrongful death damages

Questions to Ask Your Wrongful Death Attorney

Understandably, it can be a stressful and confusing time for families grieving the loss of a loved one. You likely have many questions about your legal rights and what to do next. Rely on the seasoned expertise of Pracht Injury Lawyers for the answers you need on topics such as: 

  • Do we have to consent to the autopsy before they do it?
  • How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit? What is the statute of limitations
  • If officials do not request an autopsy, can I pay for a private one at my own expense?
  • How much can we recover in a wrongful death claim?
  • Can anyone in the family file the lawsuit?
  • Will the autopsy report be publicly accessible? How do we get a copy?
We’ve supported many South Carolina families through difficult times. One family was awarded $1.2 million in a nursing home abuse and neglect case. No amount of money can bring back a loved one, but a fair settlement can help provide closure and relieve financial burden.
Christopher Pracht
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Christopher Pracht is an experienced attorney at Pracht Injury Lawyers.