When Are Autopsies Required In Pennsylvania?


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When someone dies in the state of Pennsylvania, depending on the circumstances of their death, the local coroner will determine if an autopsy is performed.

Most Americans associate autopsies with criminal television shows. While autopsies do play a crucial role in solving murder cases, they can also help in wrongful death cases, suspicious deaths, and other scenarios when the cause of death remains murky.

If your loved one passed away, and you believe they suffered a wrongful death, you may wonder if a coroner will automatically perform an autopsy or if you need to request one.

The law differs in every state in regards to when an autopsy must occur. In Pennsylvania, dozens of scenarios ranging from drowning, violence, to drug use, and more could require the coroner to order an autopsy.

What Does An Autopsy Help Determine?

Before a coroner completes an autopsy on your loved one, know what an autopsy can provide.

An autopsy will provide the cause and manner of the death. The results will give the coroner sufficient evidence to determine if the death may have resulted from a criminal act or criminal neglect of a person other than the deceased.

When Is An Autopsy Required In Pennsylvania?

When specific circumstances surround a person’s death in Pennsylvania, a coroner is required to order a forensic autopsy. First, if you want an autopsy for your loved one, review if the county your loved one died in can order it for you.

When someone dies in Pennsylvania, a coroner can order an autopsy if:

  • A person dies unexpectedly with no prior, recognizable disease, and a physician cannot pinpoint an exact cause of death.
  • Suspicious circumstances surround someone’s death, such as when alcohol, drugs, or other toxic substances may be involved.
  • Trauma, from either violence, a fall, homicide, or suicide, may have caused the person’s death.
  • Mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiational injury, including drowning, cave-in, or subsidence, caused death.
  • Police, a physician, or the coroner suspects, an infectious disease or public hazard caused death.
  • The person died while in prison or police custody.
  • Someone dies around the time of surgery when prior disease didn’t cause death.
  • An infant dies unexpectedly, suddenly, or stillbirth occurs.

What Should I Do If I Suspect My Loved One Died Of A Wrongful Death?

If you fear your loved one died a wrongful death and want an autopsy, call the legal team at Ross Feller Casey right away. We have an unmatched record winning wrongful death lawsuits and will help guide you through the process. The sooner an autopsy is performed on the deceased, the better it is because the coroner can gather more accurate information. Gathering more evidence helps the chances of winning your case.

Ross Feller Casey handles all its cases on a contingency basis. That means you will not pay a thing until we make a financial recovery in your case.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.