Can I Sue for Negligent Mishandling of a Corpse?

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Negligent Mishandling of a Corpse in Florida

Funeral homes that intentionally or recklessly mishandle a corpse may be held accountable for the emotional damages they cause. Family members of the deceased may contact an attorney of their choice to seek compensation.

When You Should Contact a Funeral Negligence Lawyer

If a funeral home has violated your trust by mishandling a deceased loved one, you deserve to exercise your legal rights. Funeral homes, mortuaries, and other providers have an obligation to fulfill your loved one’s final wishes. Unfortunately, some funeral homes make horrendous errors that rob mourners of the respectful and dignified service they expected. Other funeral providers stoop to criminal activity by selling organs or stealing jewelry and other valuables from the deceased.

Mishandling a corpse violates FL statutes Chapter 497, and of the ethical and legal trust that consumers place in funeral homes. These actions make a mockery of what should be a reflective good-bye to a departed family member. A funeral negligence lawyer will pursue compensation for the emotional damages inflicted on family members. The court may also direct punitive damages for egregious acts.

How Funeral Negligence Can Occur

Funeral homes work with several clients at a time. Careless staff members and service providers can cause errors at any stage once the deceased is in the care of the funeral provider.

As funeral negligence lawyers in Florida, we have seen these mistakes occur:

Mishandling of the Decedent or the Remains

Sometimes a funeral home will make mistakes in the transporting, storage, or embalming phases:

  • Dropping the corpse and/or coffin during the funeral or burial service.
  • Improper storage or embalming that prevents a family from a desired open casket service.
  • Unauthorized embalming that violates the deceased’s wishes for personal or religious reasons.
  • Misidentification of the body resulting in a mix-up in burial.
  • Using a broken or defective casket in violation of the contract for a new casket.
  • Burying multiple bodies or body parts in one casket.
  • Burying the decedent in the wrong plot.

Cremation Errors and Negligence

Family members expect that a funeral home will honor the wishes of the deceased. A funeral home must have permission from the family before cremating. Cremation errors include:

  • Cremating a corpse that was supposed to be prepared for viewing and burial.
  • Combining cremated remains with other bodies.
  • Losing the cremated ashes.
  • Mislabeling the cremated ashes.
  • Performing a cremation without authorization or proper identification.

Theft, Fraud, and Other Unethical Practices

Funeral homes are bound by specific state and federal guidelines. For example, the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule guarantees your right to buy the funeral goods and services that you want and what may be required by state, local, or federal health and safety codes. Some unscrupulous funeral providers will:

  • Steal jewelry, clothes, or other valuables that family members place in their loved one’s casket.
  • Harvest the decedent’s organs for profit.
  • Sell the body and bury an empty casket.
  • Switch a new casket for a used or defective model.
  • Overcharge or sell unnecessary goods and services to a grieving family member.
  • Stack two coffins in one plot to increase burial plot profits.

Cemetery Maintenance Negligence

Families pay an annual or monthly maintenance fee in exchange for proper upkeep of their loved one’s grave. Unfortunately, not all funeral homes and cemeteries honor this contract by:

  • Not cutting the grass and maintaining the burial plot according to the maintenance contract.
  • Moving bodies without the family’s permission.
  • Burying multiple bodies in the same plot.
  • Not protecting the dead with reasonable security measures from grave robbers and vandals.
  • Substituting a headstone with one of inferior quality and keeping the profit.

How an Attorney Shows Liability in a Funeral Negligence Lawsuit 

A Fort Lauderdale funeral negligence lawyer can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit in Florida to pursue compensation. If the funeral home mishandled the body, stole valuables, or in some other way was intentionally or recklessly negligent, you deserve compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Replacement or repayment for insufficient or damaged goods, or if overcharges are discovered

It is important that you give your lawyer copies of the funeral home contracts, bills, or receipts. Your lawyer will use this to show how the funeral home did not supply the promised goods and services:

  • The funeral home owed a duty of care to you and your family as proven by your contract as well as federal and state guidelines.
  • The funeral home breached its duty through negligence or intentional actions.
  • This breach directly caused you emotional distress and other damages.
  • The damages caused economic loss.

Funeral Negligence Results in Emotional and Financial Harm

Imagine the horror of seeing a stranger in the casket that you selected for a beloved family member. Or hearing that the funeral home mistakenly cremated your loved one. Sadly, these tragedies occur because of negligence.

Whether you are following your loved one’s final wishes or acting as his or her authorized representative, you expect that the funeral home and its staff will meet their responsibilities properly and respectfully. When this does not happen, it is time for you to contact an attorney with an understanding of these cases.

Statute of Limitations for a Florida Funeral Negligence Lawsuit

FL § 95.11 allows four years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Often a funeral home will try to settle these matters out of court and away from the public spotlight. A personal injury attorney in Florida with the Law Offices of Wolf & Pravato will explain your legal options and the potential benefits and challenges of a settlement or a trial. Please call today for a free consultation at (954) 633-8270.

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