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Wrongful Death Series Part 10: How Is A Private Forensic Autopsy Different From A Medical Examiner Investigation?

In regards to a potential Florida Wrongful Death case, the case may require a private autopsy to be performed to ensure that critical evidence is collected and analyzed.

A private autopsy is one performed for a fee and usually paid for by a law firm investigating a potential wrongful death case, usually as part of a potential medical malpractice case. The private autopsy is usually performed by a Board Certified Forensic Pathologist who will have no connection to any potential defendant in the case and is usually geographically distant from the county where the case arises. This ensures objectivity on behalf of the examiner and increases the credibility of the eventual court case.

The private autopsy typically follows the investigation conducted by the medical examiner, which did not involve the performance of an autopsy. Meaning, the medical examiner was able to certify the cause and manner of death based upon investigative input from factors other than the autopsy.

A private autopsy may be pursued by the deceased’s personal representative if there is additional question or concern about the cause of death as it relates to the mechanism of injury, illness, or medical intervention. A private autopsy is generally performed by a forensic pathologist specifically trained in this field, akin to a medical examiner.

A medical examiner can perform autopsies and is appointed, not elected. Forensic pathology specifically focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a body.

The Private Autopsy Will Include Exhaustive Documentation Of The Following:

– Chain of custody of the human remains

– Photographic documentation of all aspects of the gross and microscopic evaluation of the human remains

–  Explicit labeling and preparation of tissue or fluid samples intended for further laboratory analysis

The Forensic Pathologist will prepare a full report of the findings that summarizes all aspects of the autopsy process (gross description, microscopic evaluation, toxicologic assays) as well as the cause and manner of death supported by such findings.

It is almost required for any successful medical malpractice case that the plaintiff in a Florida Wrongful Death case has a professional autopsy. This will ensure that the evidence in the case is analyzed and preserved so that the defendants will have a harder time blaming the death on something other than their own carelessness.

The function of a forensic autopsy is to provide information through a postmortem examination of the body and analysis of the fluids to determine the cause of death, manner of death, and mechanism of injury.

It is imperative that an experienced Florida Wrongful Death lawyer be hired to direct the death investigation and ensure that the right expert is hired to perform the post mortem exam. The findings of the private autopsy can make or break a potential wrongful death case, and this examination should be treated with the utmost respect.

If you or a loved one is faced with the unfortunate position of having to consider a private autopsy as part of a Florida Wrongful Death case, you should first discuss the matter with one of our lawyers at We have offices located in Pensacola, Miami, and Destin. Call us as soon as possible with any such questions.  855HireJoe


Joe Zarzaur is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney whose firm is dedicated to promoting community safety since 2007. ZARZAUR LAW’S AREAS OF PRACTICE: Serious Personal Injury, Product Defect, Auto Accidents, Cycling Accidents, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Products Liability, Wrongful Death, Community Safety, Boat and Jet Ski Accidents, Slip and Fall Injuries, and more. Licensed in Alabama and Florida.

It is also important to consult with a Board Certified Trial lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to help you. We know accidents can be stressful and want to make the process as easy as possible for you. Call Zarzaur Law, P.A. today at (855) Hire-Joe for a free legal consultation or visit