My daughter was killed in a car accident but was accidentally identified as someone else at first. Do I have any legal recourse?

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Question:

My daughter was killed in an accident involving a big rig.  The police and hospital staff apprised me of her injuries.  She is bandaged to the point of being unrecognizable.  After months of talking to her and sitting by her bedside, we became aware that she was not my daughter and was mistaken for another victim of the accident who was thought to be dead.  Do I have recourse to sue that state for not properly identifying my daughter?

 

Answer:

The coroner’s office is a neutral agency that is independent of the police, the prosecutors and all other governmental entities.  It is accountable only to the citizens.  While this may seem like an uncommon occurrence, misidentification of victims involved in a serious vehicular injury has been known to happen across the globe. 

It is the responsibility of the coroner to properly identify the deceased.  This is accomplished through a variety of processes, which include interviews with friends, relatives and physicians, death scene assessments, external examinations of the body, review of medical records, sophisticated laboratory testing, x-rays and formal autopsies.  It is the duty of the coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner and cause of all violent, sudden or unusual deaths.  The coroner may hold an inquest if the circumstances warrant.  The inquest may be held with or without a jury, at the coroner’s discretion and shall be open to the public.

In your particular situation, if a relative did not identify the body as your daughter, the county or state that employs the coroner may be liable.  No matter how traumatic the process of viewing the deceased may be, it is the responsibility of the coroner to ensure that this happens.

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