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Orange County FUNERAL HOME ABUSE Attorney

Losing a loved one is often one of the most difficult events that people go through. In far too many situations, the grief from this loss is compounded by funeral home abuse. Funeral home abuse occurs when a funeral home or its staff fails to act with reasonable care in the performance of their duties. This could include the improper handling of remains, improper embalming, or failure to follow best practices.

Victims of funeral home abuse or negligence may suffer very serious and long-term psychological injuries, including anxiety, depression, and severe emotional distress. Addressing funeral home abuse is crucial to helping ensure that families are able to properly grieve. Any person who is affected by funeral home abuse may be able to seek some measure of accountability and justice through a civil claim. The Orange County funeral home abuse attorneys at Samer Habbas & Associates can examine all of the unique facts of your case and let you know what your legal options are. You can reach out to us anytime at 949-727-9300.


Common Types of Funeral Home Abuse or Neglect

Funeral home abuse or neglect can deeply impact grieving families and add stress to an already difficult situation. These businesses are entrusted with the care of loved ones and are expected to handle human remains with respect. However, when these responsibilities are not met, it can cause serious emotional and financial harm for those impacted. When families understand the various forms of misconduct that take place in a funeral home setting, they are better able to recognize problems and address any issues quickly.

  • Improper Storage: Failing to store bodies correctly is one of the most common types of funeral home abuse. It may also lead to rapid decomposition of the body. This may occur due to exposure to heat or moisture. It can also occur in facilities that fail to meet sanitary standards.
  • Improper Embalming: Embalming is an extremely important part of the burial process. It must only be performed by licensed and trained professionals. Failure to embalm a body improperly can lead to foul odors, discoloration, and decomposition.
  • Losing Cremated Remains: Misplacing ashes or other remains can lead to serious emotional trauma for grieving family members. This tends to occur at facilities that are not following safety protocols or are improperly labeling remains.
  • Unauthorized Organ Harvesting or Selling: Organs can be extremely valuable to hospitals and on the black market. This process should only take place in a medical setting with the informed consent of the family. But far too often, funeral homes and other healthcare providers attempt to unscrupulously profit from the illegal harvesting and selling of organs.
  • Sexual Abuse of The Deceased:Any form or act of sexual misconduct with the deceased is a serious and horrific violation of their dignity and respect. This could include instances of inappropriate touching or unauthorized photography of a person’s remains.
  • Mishandling Bodies of the Deceased: There are very strict medical guidelines with respect to how bodies can be handled. Any rough or disrespectful handling is strictly forbidden and is a violation of the law.
  • Failure to Follow Instructions: In addition to medical standards, religious communities within Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and other world religions may have additional preferences or standards they wish to uphold. When a funeral home fails to respect the religious or philosophical wishes of family members, this may also constitute abuse.
  • Burying or Cremating The Wrong Body: Mistakenly burying or cremating the wrong body can be extremely traumatic and upsetting for all impacted. It is a serious breach of trust and nearly always takes place due to carelessness.
  • Cremating or Burying Without Consent: At the end of the day, family members are the ones in control of what happens to their loved ones in a funeral setting. If a family does not want their loved ones to be buried or cremated for any reason, these wishes must be respected.

Given the tremendous emotional and psychological harm that can come with funeral home abuse or neglect, funeral homes must do everything in their power to safeguard against it. This includes making sure that all of their staff are properly licensed, well trained, and undergo thorough background checks. Most instances of neglect can be avoided when funeral homes have double-checking procedures and adhere to strict documentation. Regulatory bodies and state agencies should also do their part by conducting regular audits and inspections of facilities to ensure compliance.

Warning Signs of Funeral Home Abuse or Neglect

Recognizing the signs of funeral home abuse or neglect can be critical to protecting your loved ones from the indignity of mistreatment. It is essential to trust your instincts and seek clarification if you have any type of concern about the services that a funeral home is providing. Ask as many questions as possible and insist that those questions are thoroughly answered. If you notice any of these red flags, it may be a sign that your funeral home is not treating your loved one with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

  • Discrepancies in Handling of Remains: Any unexpected or unexplained delays or changes associated with the burial process may potentially indicate neglect. These abuses can manifest in visible signs of damage or decay to the body.
  • Unexplained Fees or Charges: Be wary of any charges that are significantly higher than what you originally agreed to. Funeral homes should provide a detailed breakdown of all costs and services provided upfront.
  • Lack of Transparency: Funeral homes should be open and transparent with customers at all steps of the process. If you feel as though staff are not giving clear answers and there is a lack of transparency, this could be a sign of potential abuse or neglect.
  • Unprofessional Behavior: Keep an eye out for disrespectful treatment of the deceased or their family. Another warning sign is unprofessional conduct by staff members. This may include rude behavior or a failure to address concerns.
  • Physical Signs of Neglect: Unkempt, unsanitary, or disorganized spaces in a funeral setting may point to deeper and more systemic problems within the business.

Funeral homes are for-profit businesses that are looking to make as much money as possible. To that end, they want to be as efficient as possible and service as many customers as they can. But in far too many instances, these desires can lead to clumsy record-keeping or overworked staff. This is usually the setting in which different types of abuse or neglect take place. If you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of funeral home abuse or neglect, it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible.

Examples of Funeral Home Abuse In The News

Funeral home abuse and neglect are unfortunately much more common than people may realize. Much of the abuse involved bodies that were not adequately stored. There was one recent incident in Colorado that was truly disturbing. According to U.S. News, “A county coroner reported suspicions about bodies being poorly treated by a Colorado funeral home more than three years before nearly 200 decomposing bodies were discovered inside a decrepit building in October.” What follows below are a few more recent examples of misconduct reported at funeral homes.

  • The owners of Sunset Mesa Funeral Home were charged with allegedly stealing bodies and selling body parts from 2010 to 2018.
  • A funeral home in Clovis, California was sued for allegedly failing to properly embalm a body. The lawsuit claims that the body was left to decompose for six days, even though embalming was supposed to be done right away.
  • Fresno Funeral Chapel was sued for allegedly delivering the wrong body to a funeral service.
  • Davis Funeral Home and Memorial Park in Las Vegas was sued for “accidentally” cremating the remains of a woman who was supposed to be prepared for a funeral and burial.

The amount of time that authorities have taken to investigate many of these incidents highlights the importance of independent legal oversight. It is relatively rare for funeral home operators to face criminal charges for their misconduct. Funeral homes will often do everything in their power to deny responsibility for misconduct. This could include blaming third parties that they work with. But the fact of the matter is that nearly all instances of abuse or neglect in a funeral setting involve some amount of negligence on the part of those responsible for handling a person’s remains.

Liability For Funeral Home Abuse or Neglect

Funeral homes in California and other states have a legal obligation to handle the remains of the deceased with care, dignity, respect, and in accordance with the law. When funeral home operators or their employees fail to meet these obligations by engaging in abuse or neglect, they can be held accountable through a civil claim. Generally speaking, companies are vicariously liable for the wrongful actions of their employees, insofar as those employees were working within the course and scope of their job duties. It is important that evidence is properly preserved after any instance of suspected funeral home misconduct or neglect.

  • Documentation: Collect all of the documents related to the funeral home and their services, including contracts, invoices, and emails.
  • Photographs: Be sure to take photographs that may show visible signs of abuse or neglect. It is also important to have photos showing unsanitary conditions or damage to a person’s remains.
  • Medical Records: It is important to have the forensic records of any outside agencies that examined a body that was in the possession of a funeral home.
  • Government Reports: Any instance of misconduct may result in an investigation by the police or other government body. These reports should be preserved and collected once they are complete.

It can be hard to know what to do after any instance of misconduct in a funeral setting. Victims are often overcome with grief and may face high bills by having another company step in to take over funeral services. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral in the United States was approximately $7,848 in 2021. The best place to start after any instance of funeral home misconduct is to have a conversation with an attorney who specializes in this area.

Reasons To Hire An Attorney After Funeral Home Abuse or Neglect

An attorney that specializes in funeral home abuse and neglect can be a tremendous asset. They have the power to subpoena records and collect evidence against all potentially liable parties. This will help them build a strong case to support your claim. By doing this, they are putting you in the best position to be fairly compensated. There are a number of other reasons to consider hiring an attorney if someone that you love has been mistreated in a funeral home setting.

  • No Up-Front Costs: There are no up-front costs associated with hiring an attorney to investigate your case and potentially file a lawsuit.
  • Contingency Fee: The attorney that you hire will only get paid by the opposing party if they are able to successfully resolve your claim.
  • Legal Knowledge: Funeral home abuse cases can be complex and may involve multiple liable parties. Insurance providers may try to delay cases by putting up endless appeals. All of these situations require an attorney with a deep understanding of relevant laws and legal proceedings.
  • Negotiation Skills: Funeral companies and their insurance providers have a set of interests that are directly opposed to your own in the event of a legal claim. They want to make as much money by paying out as little as possible. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf to make sure that any proposed settlement is fair.

There is a tremendous peace of mind that comes with having a skilled attorney fight on your behalf. Many families have found that taking legal action has helped them tremendously with the healing process. It allows people to have a sense of closure. They know that they’ve done everything in their power to correct the wrongs committed against their loved ones. Legal actions can also act as a strong deterrent by moving those responsible to adopt better practices and higher ethical standards.

Getting Legal Help After Funeral Home Abuse or Neglect

When faced with the traumatic experience of funeral home abuse or neglect, seeking skilled legal help is critical. A knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the legal process and let you know what your options are. By seeking legal help after abuse, you can hold those responsible accountable and send a clear message to other funeral homes that misconduct will not be tolerated.

If you or someone that you love has been impacted by funeral home abuse or neglect, our legal team is here to help. The attorneys at Samer Habbas & Associates have spent decades fighting on behalf of victims. In fact, we have recovered over $300 million for our deserving clients. There is a reason so many clients have left our law firm 5-star reviews and entrusted us to handle their claim. We focus on compassionate advocacy and winning above all else. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free investigation into any incident, we are here to serve your needs. You can reach out to us anytime at 949-727-9300.

This post is also available in ES.

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