Birmingham Funeral Home Attorney
After a loved one’s passing, the last thing that the grieving family needs is insult to injury due to neglect by the funeral home staff or mortician. Through the years, Drake Injury Lawyers has seen instances of neglect that no family should have to go through in such trying times. Whether it is poor embalming, misplacement of the body or loss of the cremation ashes, negligence by the facility can cause an otherwise solemn time for the family to become traumatic, especially to the children and those closest to the deceased.
Under Alabama law, funeral homes, morticians, cremation facilities and burial contractors have a duty to properly and reasonably prepare and conduct the entire burial and funeral proceedings in a way that is dignified and responsive to the family and friends of the loved one who has recently passed. Additionally, Alabama law has specific laws that the address the funeral disposition process. In these situations, where neglect has resulted in mental anguish and emotional trauma to family members, Alabama law allows the recovery of both compensation for the family and punitive damages against the company or facility that committed the negligence.
Funeral, cremation and burial services are governed by Code of Alabama 34-13-1 through 152. These sections require homes, directors, embalmers, morticians and crematoriums to be duly licensed and qualified. This means that each of these persons must be approved by the state of Alabama before engaging in funeral procedures.
Examples of Common Funeral Home or Burial Negligence
- Neglectful preservation of the body leading up to the public viewing or visitation
- Improper embalming
- Poor preparation of the corpse for viewing
- Delayed embalming resulting in unnecessary decay
- Unauthorized cremation
- Unauthorized burial
- Burial in the wrong plot
- Unearthing a coffin to bury elsewhere without family permission
- Falling or dropped coffins during the funeral ceremony
- Injury, trauma or damage to the corpse that prevents an open casket or viewing
- Misplacement of the ashes or body
- Undignified positioning of the body
- Poor makeup and clothing of the corpse for presentation
- Personal effects of the deceased misplaced or lost
- Organ donor bequests not honored
Fraud, Deception and Taking Advantage?
Unfortunately, during the grieving process, some funeral homes take advantage of the situation. Knowing full well that the family is in a weakened condition, possibly coping with the results of a fatal accident, and struggling to make all the preparations for the speedy disposition of the whole process, they are quick to have the family agree to all their terms and conditions. Whether in the form of selling you a casket for too much or misleading you about the things that come with the “deluxe package”, deceptive bargaining is all too common.
A common tactic we often see is when the home offers special financing to get the deal done. Being in a weak bargaining position, the family will sometimes be coerced to accept terms that are unfair and oppressive.
Who brings the funeral home or burial negligence claim?
The right to pursue a malpractice claim for neglect against a funeral home depends on the relationship between the deceased and the other party. Obviously, spouses, children and immediate family members can usually bring a personal injury claim for the emotional distress and mental trauma caused by the misconduct on the part of the funeral home. However, there are certain situations where close friends or others may also make a claim, depending on how close they were to the decedent. If you have suffered emotional distress over the improper funeral process of a loved one, you may have a claim. Contact our funeral home lawyers at Drake Injury Lawyers for help with you case.
What if I signed an arbitration agreement?
It is not uncommon for morticians, burial companies, crematoriums and funeral parlors to require the family to sign certain papers associated with the whole process of disposing of the body and handling the funeral ceremony. Usually, the documents will contain arbitration clauses that purport to release any right to bring a lawsuit for mistakes. While these clauses can sometimes be enforced, our firm has handled multiple cases where these arbitration provisions are ruled to be invalid. Additionally, the arbitration agreement can usually only be enforced against the family member who signed it, not others who may be entitled to bring a claim.
What is my first step in a funeral home lawsuit?
Your first step should be to contact our funeral home lawyers at Drake Injury Lawyers and receive a free consultation if you think a burial, cremation or funeral has been handled improperly. Our Birmingham personal injury lawyers can review your documents and situation and advise as to what your family’s right may be under the particular circumstances. Also, remember that Alabama has a two year statute of limitations to bring these kinds of claims. If you need a lawyer who handles cases against funeral homes, call us at 205-970-0800 to discuss your claim and we will be glad to assist. Or, watch the video below for more information.