in Death or Serious Bodily Injury
Investigators interested in learning more about Death and SBI Investigations, are encouraged to look in to our related books and courses at www.InvestigativeCourses.com
As Expert Medicolegal Investigators, we investigate, review, and consult in death and serious bodily injury (SBI) cases more than any other services we provide. We do so for civil, criminal, and probate litigation, as well in cases of questioned insurance benefits – most commonly accident vs. suicide, and also the actions of the insured party leading up to the covered event. These are most often for attorneys, and also other investigators. We also provide services in select private family cases of questioned deaths.
We will review, and then if substantiated, investigate starting with the official investigation records, reports and photographs. These are numerous, and much more than the standard police report or autopsy report – which are no different than our own – they are reports of findings based on evidence. We want to see the evidence, and possibly – most often – find more evidence. We will analyze and review the official investigation and provide an expert opinion if standard protocols and practices were followed, and if the official findings are consistent with the evidence. We will then make recommendations if further investigation is warranted by our agency, and/or our consulting forensic pathologist and consulting forensic toxicologist, including other experts.
Cause and Manner is not exclusive to death investigations. Similar processes and findings are used in SBI cases, and also civil and criminal cases, fire investigations, motor vehicle collisions, and more. Understanding these two components, and their differences, is necessary to understanding the roles of involved investigators and experts.
In death investigations, the Cause of Death is a medical finding and opinion – and is the medical reason for death. These are based on a medicolegal probability conclusion – not a legal certainty. In other cases, such as fire or motor vehicle collisions it would be the series of events giving the reason for the fire or collision. This is determined from investigative and forensic evidence, direct and circumstantial. This may be determined by any combination of, or only: autopsy (medical or forensic), investigation, or review of the medical records.
Next is the Manner of Death – which is a medicolegal finding – and is a category: Natural – a medical or health factor; Accident – due to the person’s or another’s actions without intent; Suicide – due the person’s actions with knowledge and/or intent; Homicide – due to another person’s actions with knowledge and/or intent; and Undetermined – in which the evidence is inconclusive as to a specific Manner. The same Cause of Death – such as an overdose, gunshot wound, or motor vehicle collision – may have different applicable Manners due to the circumstances within the Cause. A person may die or have a SBI due to an overdose, gunshot wound, or motor vehicle collision and the Manner be Accident, Homicide (or attempted), Suicide (or attempted), or Undetermined. A motor vehicle collision could be due to a medical event and be Natural. Careful, skilled, and experienced investigation is important to ascertaining the facts and findings.
It is important to also differentiate between a medical manner and similar legal manner. For example, a motor vehicle collision caused an intoxicated driver with a fatality will be Accident, however, the legal finding – or charge – may be vehicle homicide. The Cause and Manner of Death are both similar to the civil standard of a preponderance or statutory standards of reasonable or probable; and are not the more strict criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our agency may be involved in any various investigations and expert consultations mentioned here, and others. We are not accident reconstructionists or fire investigators – we have knowledge and experience with these; however, insufficient to reach a finding or conclusion as to causation. We do consult with other experts, just as we do in our death investigations. These experts will tell us the Cause, and additional findings and their consultations will assist us in determining the Manner.
It is important to know the distinctions and qualifications of the investigators and experts of your cases.
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