When a loved one or family member passes away, we expect that the funeral home or mortuary will treat them with the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Mistakes can and do occur in funeral homes and crematoriums. Cremation errors are just one example of a negligent act that can cause family members pain and suffering. Improper cremation practices can leave a loved one’s remains unidentifiable.
Consult With a Cremation Error Lawyer in South Carolina
Losing a loved one is difficult enough without having to learn that your loved one’s remains were ill-treated through cremation errors. If you believe that your loved one was the victim of a cemetery or funeral home’s negligence, it’s essential to know your legal rights. The skilled funeral law attorneys at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA, are here to help you hold the responsible party accountable for their cremation negligence. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
Examples of Cremation Errors
When those handling your loved one’s remains aren’t careful, it can lead to negligent cremation practices. In some cases, the funeral home or crematorium will cremate the wrong body. As a result, the surviving family members will receive an urn with another person’s cremated body. The crematorium or funeral home may have negligently swapped the ashes with another person’s ashes.
In other cases, the crematorium will misplace a person’s ashes. The surviving family members will never be able to receive their loved one’s ashes in these cases. In other cases, negligent crematoriums will mix the ashes of multiple people.
Another type of cremation error involves failure to cremate the body adequately. The surviving family members may experience a traumatic event when they look into the ashes and see larger pieces of the bodies of their loved ones that haven’t been cremated thoroughly. In some of the most egregious examples, funeral homes will illegally sell body parts from an individual who was supposed to be cremated for profit.
Overcharging for Cremation
In addition to these types of negligent cremation practices, crematoriums in funeral homes can also be guilty of overcharging. Grieving family members are vulnerable and at risk for overcharging. When funeral homes overcharge grieving families for cremation and other serial procedures, doing so can be viewed as a type of funeral home negligence. In some cases, funeral homes try to render necessary services or simply overcharge their client for cremation services.
The Legal Requirements of Cremation in South Carolina
South Carolina’s Safe Cremation Act sets out the legal requirements crematoriums and funeral homes must follow before cremating a person’s body. A person with legal authority must specifically authorize the cremation to do so, such as:
- Legal authority granted in a will
- The deceased’s surviving spouse
- The deceased’s children
- Next of kin
- A personal representative of the estate
The Act also makes it a crime to dispose of cremated remains in a location that those remains will be commingled with another person’s remains. Likewise, the Act makes it illegal for funeral homes or crematoriums to place more than one person’s cremated remains in the same temporary urn or container.
Additionally, the Act makes it illegal for funeral directors in crematoriums to remove body parts, organs, dental gold, or any other valuable items without having specific written authorization from the authorized agent. When a funeral home or crematorium violates provisions of the South Carolina Safe Cremation Act, they can face criminal charges as well as liability from a personal injury lawsuit.
Proving Funeral Home Negligence
Negligent cremation cases aren’t widespread, but they can be severely impactful when they do occur. There is no way for family members to restore their loved one’s remains or even make the situation right in many cases. The severity of these situations is why many families seek to litigate their case and hold the responsible party accountable. When an end-of-life service provider has engaged in negligent, incompetent, or malicious behavior, several legal options are available to surviving family members who want to correct the issue.
The family may decide to file an individual lawsuit against the funeral home or crematorium. If the funeral home or crematorium has a history of engaging in negligent behavior, it may be possible to file a class-action lawsuit with multiple injured parties. When the end-of-life provider intentionally made cremation errors, the family may be able to file a fraud claim or bad face claim. Depending on the facts of the case, surviving family members may need to file a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including the hospital, crematorium, and funeral home.
Potential Damages for a Cremation Error
If your loved one’s remains were neglected or abused by a funeral home, crematoriums might be eligible to recover compensation. Under South Carolina law, certain surviving family members have a right to sue on behalf of their loved ones whose remains have been mistreated. A successful plaintiff may be eligible to recover compensation for the following:
- Emotional distress
- Loss of life’s enjoyment
- Funeral expenses
- Other damages
The amount of damages you can recover in these types of cases varies depending on the facts of each unique case. If the funeral home robbed you of being able to have your loved one’s ashes, you might be entitled to the value of what they took in damages for your emotional distress.
How Our Cremation Error Attorneys Can Get the Compensation You Deserve
If a crematorium or funeral home acted negligently towards your dearly departed loved one, you might have a right to compensation. Funeral homes have a legal duty to act reasonably in the circumstances and treat your loved one’s remains with respect. At Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA, we will review the facts of your case to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve during this difficult time. We work on a contingency fee, so there’s no cost to getting started. Contact us to schedule your free initial consultation.