Does a wrongful death case require an autopsy?


If your loved one has died as the result of someone else’s error, you may have a wrongful death claim. You may be wondering, does your wrongful death case require an autopsy? The short answer to that question is not necessarily.

To start, and most importantly, no two cases are the same. One cannot blanketly say that an autopsy is required in a medical malpractice wrongful death suit or that it’s not required in a wrongful death suit. The facts of the case, the causation claim, the damages, whether evidence needs to be preserved, and various other factors will determine whether you should get an autopsy of your deceased loved one. Because the answer is, essentially, “it depends,” you should hire an experienced wrongful death attorney to determine whether an autopsy is required.

Read on to understand the factors your wrongful death attorney will consider in determining the necessity of an autopsy as well as some general ways an autopsy gets ordered.


If there is no real question as to the cause of death, an autopsy is generally not necessary. Let’s say, for example, that your loved one was a healthy person with no underlying health concerns. And he gets in a serious car accident in which the other person’s car drives head-on into his car; he dies at the scene. In that wrongful death action, it will be obvious to all parties that the car crash is what caused his death. An autopsy, thus, would not give much more information than what is already evident to all involved.


On the other hand, if it is completely unknown what exactly caused your loved one’s death, then an autopsy could be informative. For example, if you think your loved one died due to being prescribed the wrong medicine and the doctor you’re suing suggested your loved one died from an unrelated pneumonia, an autopsy could help resolve the issue.  An autopsy would clarify whether the wrongfully-prescribed medicine caused your loved one to die or whether the unrelated lung infection did. 


There are different ways an autopsy can be ordered. In some instances, a government agency and/or official could order one to be performed.  For example, it could be ordered by the local county coroner or the local medical examiner’s office. Alternatively, the family of the decedent could request one from the county coroner or the medical examiner’s office and/or the hospital where a loved one died. Lastly, you can, through your lawyer, order a private autopsy, performed by a professional forensic pathologist hired by your lawyer.  

As to whether to order and/or request an autopsy for your wrongful death suit, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who will weigh all the factors in determining whether an autopsy is necessary for the potential case. Find an experienced wrongful death attorney at VSCP Law.

VSCP The Important Roles of Personal Injury Attorneys

A common error people make after they’ve been injured as the result of someone e...

The Top 4 Reasons You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe you have been injured because of what a healthcare professional h...

Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyers

A birth injury can occur before, during, and/or immediately after childbirth. A...