Florida law considers death to be sacred. Because of this, it must be handled properly by funeral homes and mortuaries. If negligence occurs in these places regarding how your loved one’s remains are handled, you may have the right to seek compensation.
In this post, we’ll explain ways funeral homes can be negligent, how the laws work, and what you can do to get help.
What Qualifies as Funeral Home or Mortuary Negligence in Florida?
When you choose a funeral home or mortuary’s services, the business has a duty to provide you with a reasonable standard of care. Whatever services the average person would expect to receive under similar circumstances set the expectation of reasonable care.
If the funeral home acts with negligence and breaches that standard of care, you may have grounds for filing a lawsuit for damages.
Common Types of Florida Funeral Home Negligence
Here are the most common ways funeral homes and mortuaries act with negligence.
Improperly storing a body
If a body is not embalmed and refrigerated in a timely fashion, decay can occur. A knowledgeable Florida injury lawyer will be able to tell you whether the body of your loved one was handled in a manner and time frame appropriate for the situation.
Delay in transporting the body
Once a body is embalmed or cremated, it must be shipped in a timely manner to the funeral home or family. If an unreasonable delay occurred which prevented you from proceeding with funeral arrangements, you may be able to sue.
Shipping the wrong body to the family
Mistakes like these are without excuse. If a funeral home or mortuary made this mistake, you can sue for negligence.
Providing the wrong body for a viewing
A gross error like this can cause additional and unnecessary emotional distress for a grieving family. You may be able to sue for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
Giving the wrong ashes to you
If your loved one’s wished to be cremated, you deserve to receive the actual ashes of your loved one, not anyone else. A mistake like this is grounds for a lawsuit.
Lack of timely inspection
In Florida, funeral homes and mortuaries are required to be inspected annually. If an attorney can prove that the state failed to inspect the entity in a proper fashion, you may be able to sue both the state and the funeral home or mortuary for negligence.
Scientific research without permission
In rare cases, some corpses have been turned over for scientific research before being embalmed and presented to the family. If this situation happened, you can sue for damages.
Selling a loved one’s organs
If the funeral home or mortuary harvests and sells organs without the family’s permission, it is not only a negligent act, but also a criminal one.
Burying bodies on top of each other
Some ill-reputed companies have been found to stack bodies to save burial space. However, unless you expressly allowed for it, burying bodies in this way is an act of negligence.
Body buried in the wrong place
If the body is buried on the wrong plot, or a husband and wife are not buried together as desired, families can sue for damages.
If the body must be exhumed and any damage occurs to the coffin or corpse, you may be able to file a lawsuit for negligence.
How Can Florida Funeral Home or Mortuary Negligence Be Proven?
Four elements must be proven in cases of funeral home or mortuary negligence:
- Duty. You were a customer of the funeral home or mortuary, who therefore had a duty to provide you certain level of service.
- Breach of duty. The funeral home or mortuary breached the standard care of duty through negligence.
- Causation. The breach of duty caused a loss to you.
- Damages. The breach of duty resulted in economic damages to you and/or noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
A skilled Florida injury attorney will know what kind of damages to seek and how much you can expect to receive. As noted, you can receive economic damages, such as compensation for a damaged coffin. You may be able to receive noneconomic damages for the emotional pain you endured due to the breach of duty, such as seeing a different person than your loved one in the casket. For gross negligence such as selling a loved one’s organs without permission, you may be able to sue for punitive damages as well.
If you suspect that negligence occurred, consult with a knowledgeable Florida injury lawyer by reaching out to our office today. Receiving damages for negligent behavior can give you the peace of mind and closure you are seeking after a loved one’s death.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.