Alabama Funeral Home Lawyers
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From the time a funeral home takes your loved one’s body to when your relative’s body or ashes are presented to you and your family, nothing should go wrong. There should be no incidents of neglect or abuse that cause you or your other family members emotional distress. Unfortunately, this may not be your experience. You may have been presented the wrong body at the wake. You and your relatives may have witnessed your loved one in an undignified and neglected state. Worse yet, embalming mistakes could cause you to witness your relative’s physical decay.
All of these incidents and any other form of neglect or abuse toward your relative’s remains can cause you and your relatives to suffer intense emotional distress you do not deserve. In the wake of such an inappropriate and difficult situation, it is best to speak with our experienced funeral home lawyers at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C.
After practicing law in Alabama for decades, we have seen many mortuary and cemetery neglect and abuse cases. We have fought hard for the affected families to hold the at-faulty parties responsible and to receive compensation. To learn if you have the right to file a legal claim against a funeral home, contact us via our online form or call 205-933-1500 to schedule a free consultation.
How a Funeral Home Should Care for Your Loved One
When you provide a funeral home with your relative’s body, you expect each employee of that business to handle your loved one with care and professionalism. Your relative should be kept in a secure, appropriate place that preserves their body, which should be clearly identifiable by some means. A funeral home may use your loved one’s name, though many funeral homes also use numerical indicators. There should be no risk of confusing your loved one’s body for someone else.
Wherever your loved one’s body is kept, it should be clean and free from any rodent or insect infestations. It should also be secure so that unauthorized individuals cannot access the body.
Your relative’s body should always be handled with care, never manhandled or abused. When the body is prepared for burial, it should be treated with the utmost respect. The tasks performed should be those that are necessary for burial and approved by you and your family. If your loved one is embalmed, which is common, the funeral home should utilize all proper embalming techniques to prevent premature decompensation of the body.
The funeral home should prepare the body in the way requested by you and your family and dressed in the clothes you provided. Your loved one can then be presented during the services, with or without an open casket, as your family directed. If your loved one wished to be cremated, then this should be performed without your loved one’s remains ever comingling with another person’s ashes. All of your family’s religious traditions should be respected at all times.
When the appropriate burial or cremation process is not followed and something disturbing occurs, causing you emotional distress, you should speak with us at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. right away. We have a great deal of experience handling funeral home negligence cases.
What is Funeral Home Negligence?
Negligence occurs when one individual or business, who is legally required to treat another party with a certain level of care, fails to uphold that duty, causing the other party harm. In legal terms, negligence is a breach of a standard of care, also called a duty of care. The specific standard of care depends on the parties involved and their relationship. For instance, the duty of care one driver owes another while on the road is different than the duty a physician owes to their patient. In other words, negligence is substandard care. It is often analogous to carelessness.
Funeral home negligence occurs when the funeral home is careless or reckless in how it treats your relative’s body, and you discover this negligence in some way, causing you severe emotional distress. If you are suffering from significant mental anguish because of a funeral home’s avoidable mistakes, contact our legal team regarding funeral home malpractice. We will review your situation and advise you on whether you and your family members have a valid claim against the funeral home. We may need to investigate the situation further and review the evidence before we can ascertain the possibility of a lawsuit and its likely outcome.
Common Examples of Funeral Home Negligence and Abuse
At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., our attorneys have witnessed all types of funeral home abuse and negligence, including:
Mishandling of Individual’s Remains
Funeral homes may improperly transport, store, or preserve your loved one’s body, causing premature decay and unnecessary alterations in the body’s appearance. In some situations, the effect is so extreme as to make it impossible to have an open casket. Another form of mishandling remains is failing to use proper identification methods, causing the funeral home to briefly lose your loved one’s body and possibly present the wrong remains to you and your family.
Embalming is a specific scientific process intended to preserve the body for a certain period of time, enabling you and your family to use an open casket at a wake and funeral. If your loved one is not properly embalmed, the body may decompose too soon and look disfigured. This typically cannot be corrected and may force your family to have a closed casket.
When your loved one wishes to be cremated, it is up to the mortuary to ensure this process is properly executed. Your loved one’s body should be cremated alone and their ashes should never be mingled with another person’s remains. Also, if your loved one preferred to be buried, or burial is required by their religion, then a funeral home should never cremate your loved one without permission.
Theft and Fraud
Funeral home management and employees may take advantage of you and your relatives in your time of grief by overcharging you, selling you used or defective caskets, or stealing your loved one’s possessions that are intended to be buried with them.
Both the funeral home and cemetery are responsible for ensuring your loved one receives the intended burial. When your loved one is to be buried, they should be placed to rest in their own plot at the appropriate time. A cemetery should also never remove your loved one from their resting place without permission. Unfortunately, cemeteries have been known to bury multiple remains in the same plot and move bodies without permission to resell plots.
When You May File a Funeral Home Negligence Claim
If you and some of your other family members were affected by cemetery or mortuary negligence, contact our legal team immediately. A funeral home negligence claim is not allowed in every situation, and you do not want to waste your family’s financial resources and time on a claim that will be quickly dismissed by the court or denied by an insurance company. We will review your situation and discuss whether you are likely to have a valid claim.
The more egregious the funeral home’s actions, the stronger your claim. If the funeral home’s actions were inexcusable, extreme, or intentional, then we may have a great deal of evidence to support your legal right to compensation.
Our funeral home lawyers can also advise you on who may have a right to file the legal claim. Close relatives likely have standing to file a funeral home negligence suit, including if you are the decedent’s surviving spouse, child, or parent. You may also have standing if you were not one of these relatives, yet you were the decedent’s heir or beneficiary. If you are not a close relative, beneficiary, or heir, then speak with us regarding the possibility of filing a claim or whether another family member may do so.
To have a valid claim, you must also be able to prove your emotional distress was directly related to the conduct. You must have witnessed or been directly affected by the mortuary’s negligence or abuse toward your relative’s remains.
Through a valid claim, you and your affected relatives may seek compensation for your emotional distress. If the funeral home’s actions were intentional and not the result of carelessness or recklessness, then you may also be able to seek punitive damages.
Let Our Funeral Home Negligence Attorneys Help You
If you and your family are suffering unnecessarily because of a funeral home’s substandard care of your loved one’s remains, contact a personal injury lawyer at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. today. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources you need to determine if a funeral home negligence case is available and whether it is right for you and your relatives.