Dealing with a loved one’s passing is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. No matter how heartfelt friends, colleagues, and acquaintances intentions and sentiments are, there’s not much they can do to ease the pain.
Besides your heart going through the wringer and wondering how you’re going to move forward without your loved one, things can be even worse if you feel that something is awry with the funeral home you’re working with. It could be something obvious such as “misplaced” jewelry intended to be buried with your loved one. Or it could just be little details throughout the process that cause you to pause and wonder if the funeral home personnel is trustworthy.
It is possible to prove funeral home negligence. If you believe something is wrong, trust your instincts, take notes of any unusual interactions, and act quickly. Below we provide illustrations of specific signs of funeral home negligence and how to prove it.
Signs of Funeral Home Negligence & How to Prove It
Fraud includes being overcharged, or charged for services you did not receive, or being shown only the most expensive options, withholding an itemized list of costs, or staff members that attempt to guilt you into purchasing the most expensive items, a funeral director who is not licensed or whose license is inactive or delinquent, or being told that Florida requires embalming in order to charge you for it.
How to prove fraud: Generally speaking, fraud is proven through a process called “Discovery”. Voice your concerns to your attorney, then your attorney will send an official demand for funeral home records to compare to the goods and services you actually received. You’ll need to provide written documents and payment receipts. If you no longer have these items, your attorney can obtain copies from the funeral home. In addition, your attorney can depose (take the sworn testimony) of funeral home employees.
2. Breach of Contract
When you agree to services of a funeral home, the terms are presented to you in writing. The contract should include costs for items such as: a casket, flowers, cremation if applicable, an urn, pamphlets or cards to be given to guests, as well as anything else you’ve agreed to. The funeral home is obligated to provide exactly what you paid for. Not something similar. Not what they had available. Anything other than what you agreed to and paid for is a breach of contract, and you have the right to recover damages.
How to prove breach of contract: Provide a copy of the written contract. If you no longer have the contract, you or your attorney can request a copy. If you didn’t receive a contract, your attorney can request payment receipts, the funeral home’s inventory, pictures, catalogs with prices, and take the sworn testimony of the funeral home employees.
3. Embalming Mistakes
Signs of embalming mistakes include decomposition of the decedent’s body, or disfigurement of the face. This is highly distressing and causes additional emotional turmoil to family and friends.
How to prove embalming mistakes: To prove this type of negligence you will need photos of the physical damage to your loved one. Documents from the funeral home and expert testimony on proper embalming procedure will also be necessary.
4. Improper Storage of the Body
There are different ways in which this could occur: From storage temperatures that are not cold enough, to failing to keep the decedent’s body refrigerated at all. The latter example would be obvious with a foul smell, and the likelihood of flies within the funeral home.
How to prove improper storage: This is proven with photos, an inspection of the premises, funeral home documents, interviews with staff members and expert testimony.
Theft includes everything from jewelry, clothing, gold teeth, prosthetics, and sometimes even organs. Personal items are more noticeable since family members often choose jewelry with special meaning: family heirlooms, the loved one’s favorite piece, or a wedding ring. As for organs, as horrifying as it sounds, this type of case often ends up in the news. When this occurs, licenses are suspended, the operators face criminal charges and the family is notified.
How to prove theft: Start by initializing a police investigation. You will need to submit an itemized list of what was turned over to the funeral staff to be worn by your loved one. Your attorney will request surveillance videos, funeral home documents and obtain testimonies from funeral home employees.
If You’ve Been a Victim of Funeral Home Negligence, Let Us Help You
At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have over three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients. All of our attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. Let us help you. Contact us online or call us at 727-799-3900 to schedule a free consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.