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Coroner FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is the Coroner involved in the death of my loved one?

All unnatural deaths must be investigated by the Coroner. That includes homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths. In the case of a suspected natural death, the decedent’s Medical Doctor will provide a cause of death. If that doctor cannot or has not seen the decedent in the past 20 days prior to the death, the Coroner will likely be notified.

   

Is an autopsy needed?

Not always, but in most cases it is mandated by law. About half of the cases investigated by the Coroner require autopsies to determine the cause of death. In some cases, where a natural death is suspected, a Forensic Pathological Medical Review will be conducted by the Forensic Pathologist. This consists of an external examination, to rule out trauma, and a review of the decedent’s medical records.

   

Will my loved one still be able to have an open casket if an autopsy is performed?

Yes, unless the decedent’s body was not suitable for viewing prior to autopsy (i.e. significant trauma to face, decomposed bodies). Autopsies are conducted in a professional manner and do not affect the viewing of the decedent. These decisions will be up to the family and the mortuary.

   

Can I see my loved one at the Coroner facility?

No. The Coroner’s Office does not have a facility for public viewings. A viewing can be arranged with your contracted mortuary once your loved one is transferred to the mortuary.

   

Can my loved one still be an organ donor if they are under the jurisdiction of the Coroner?

In most cases yes. If the family expresses interest in donation, we can contact our local organ donation organization, LifeSharing. A determination will be made if the donation will impede us from determining the cause of death.

   

What does the family do now?

Contact a mortuary and contract their services. They will assist you in selecting the type of services for your loved one. They will work closely with us to arrange the release of your loved one from our facility.

   

How can we have a burial for my loved one in Mexico?

The family would have to contract with a mortuary in the US and with a mortuary in Mexico. Bodies must be embalmed to be transported across state lines. Our local mortuaries are very familiar with this process and would be the ones helping you with this process. In cases of a death of a Mexican Citizen, the Mexican Consulate in Calexico, CA, can usually provide some assistance or guidance in this process. They can be reached at 760-357- 3863. Most consulates from other countries assist their citizens with similar services.

   

Can you recommend a company that can clean up the death scene?

We cannot recommend any companies, but the California Department of Public Health maintains a list of “Registered Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners.” Refer to the list for the location of the closest companies.

   

How can the next-of-kin reclaim property taken by the Coroner’s Office?

Contact the Coroner’s Office at (442) 265-2105. Property will be inventoried and can remain with the decedent when he is transferred to your mortuary. Otherwise, the property can be released to the legal next-of-kin or another person with written authorization from the legal next-of-kin only after it has been approved by the Coroner’s Office.

   

How long will my loved one be at the Coroner’s facility?

Generally the decedent will be available to be released the day of autopsy. Autopsies are usually conducted twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, but this schedule is susceptible to change. The Coroner Investigator handling your loved one’s case will try to give you the date of autopsy if it is known at that time.

   

How can I find out the cause of death?

Next-of-kin can call the Coroner’s Office in the afternoon on the day of autopsy. In most cases the cause of death will be known. In some cases requiring toxicology testing, microscopic examination, or other tests the cause would be listed as pending. The cause of death on “pending” cases will not be known until all tests are in and the Forensic Pathologist submits the autopsy report. This is generally within 90-120 days after the autopsy date.

   

Are there any Coroner fees?

No. At this time the Coroner’s Office does not charge any fees for the transportation, autopsy, or investigation.

   

What type of reports will be generated by the Coroner’s Office?

If a case is deemed a Coroner case, a Coroner Investigative Report will be completed. If an examination or autopsy is conducted by the Forensic Pathologist, an Autopsy report will be generated. If any other testing is done (i.e. Toxicology) then that report will also be available.

   

Can I get a copy of the reports? Is there a charge?

Please contact the Coroner’s Office for this service. Coroner Investigative reports are $40.00, Autopsy reports are $25.00, and any additional reports (i.e. toxicology…) are $25.00. In most cases the total will be $90.00 for the three reports. The report cannot be released until the case has been closed, generally between 90-120 days after the date of death. At this time the Coroner’s Office provides one copy to the next-of-kin free of charge.

   

What happens if the family does not have any money for funeral costs?

The Imperial County Public Administrator handles indigent burials. Please contact their office for assistance: (442) 265-7000. They are located at 778 W. State St., El Centro, CA 92243

   

Where can I get a copy of the death certificate?

A certified copy of the death certificate can be requested at your mortuary and is sometimes included in the mortuary fees. Other copies can be obtained at the Imperial Count Health Dept. (442)265-1444, or the Imperial County Recorder’s Office (442) 265-1076.

   

How soon can I get a copy of the death certificate?

Once the cause of death is known the Coroner’s Office or Primary Care Physician will be responsible for signing the death certificate. It is usually completed within a couple of days after the death, however your mortuary will be responsible for registering the death certificate, which is done once a disposition date is known (date for funeral / cremation / etc..). The registering of the death certificate could take weeks. Contact your mortuary for more information.

    

The cause of death says pending on the death certificate; can this still be used for legal purposes?

Yes. Once the death certificate has been registered, a certified copy can be used for legal purposes (i.e. handling of bank accounts, insurance, social security, bills, etc…). If an organization requires other documentation or more information from the Coroner’s Office, please contact us or have them call us. An amendment to the death certificate will be submitted once the official cause of death is known; this will likely be 90-120 days after autopsy.

   

Who do I contact if I have any questions regarding my loved one’s case?

The Coroner Investigator who responded to the death scene will likely be responsible for the investigation. If you did not get the contact information you can call our office at (442) 265-2105. Our office is open Monday-Friday (except holidays) 8am-5pm. You can also email our office at: CORONERS@ICSO.ORG

   

What happens if a body has not been identified?

If a body is not identified on scene, the Coroner’s Office will attempt everything from fingerprinting, checking missing persons database, contacting Mexican Consulate (if applicable), Odontology, DNA analysis, to posting the case online in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS.GOV). “Namus” is a website for the public and for law enforcement agencies to list missing persons, unidentified deceased persons, and identified- unclaimed deceased persons.

California State Coroner’s Association: coroners.org
California Donate Life Organization: donateLIFEcalifornia.org
LifeSharing Organ & Tissue Donation: lifesharing.org
Mexican Consulate in Calexico: consulmex.sre.gob.mx/calexico
Namus (missing, unidentified, unclaimed persons): namus.gov
Next of Kin Registry: nokr.org
San Diego Eye Bank: sdeb.org

Save A Life America: savealifeamerica.org

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