General AdviceLegal

Are Coroner Reports a Public Record?

My boyfriend with whom I previously lived for 3 years passed away suddenly. His family made all of the funeral arrangements plus cleaned his apartment out without letting me be part of the process. They kept all of his belongings some of which were actually mine, gifts I had given and some sentimental things that would have meant nothing to them, but everything to me.

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Upon his death the coroner said they were doing an autopsy due to him being found at home without being ill at the time. He told the family it would be weeks before the results would be available. Well months have passed and every time I ask one of them about it they defer to another subject and never give a straight answer. Are coroner reports public records? Is there a way to request one in NYS? I have not gotten the closure I need and just need to know what happened to him.

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November 20, 20180 found this helpful

According to this website, in Pennsylvania they are www.rcfp.org/.../autopsy-reports

Since you live in NY, consult a NY attorney. The Legal Aid Society will give you information and a lawyer for free, if you cannot afford one.

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November 20, 20180 found this helpful

You have my deepest condolences on your loss.

It sounds like you have two things your need to get closure, some of his personal effects (and your own) and to know what happened with him.

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For the first, this site may help you find information if he had a will....if you don't already know that info. You may need an attorney or a mediator to get help if there was no will. Your state senator can help you with this. Google your location and the phrase state senator and call to set up an appointment. This should be a free service.

Here is some information on coroner reports:. It says they only go to legal family members. If you were his common law spouse, and could prove that, you should be able to to get access. If not, you can talk to your senator about that topic also... meaning seeing if you have any rights:

www1.nyc.gov/.../autopsy-report

www.archives.nysed.gov/.../retention_co-2_coroner

Sending prayers for you and and that you get the closure you need.

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November 20, 20180 found this helpful

THEY ARE ONLY AVAILABLE TO THE NEXT OF KIN
YOU HAVE TO REQUEST THIS IN WRITING TO YOUR CORONERS OFFICE.

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BUT THE RULES ARE DIFFERENT FROM STATE TO STATE.
SINCE YOU WERE HIS GIRL FRIEND THEY HAD NO RIGHT TO TOUCH YOUR THINGS.

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November 22, 20180 found this helpful

It sounds like a lot of different things going on with this situation and you will probably have to deal with each individually.

  • It isn't clear from your question that you were still his girlfriend when he died and although you had personal items in his apartment it does not appear that you were living there. This would indicate that the family had every right to remove anything that was in his apartment without consulting anyone. Any gift you gave to him would also have been considered his and therefore would belong to his family or his estate if he had a will.
  • Is the family aware that you are or have been his girlfriend? Did they have knowledge that you had personal items in his apartment? Do or did you and his family have a friendly relationship? This may be the most important question since they are in control (legally) of his possessions.
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  • Getting anything that is your personal property should be the easiest task but it may/will require the help of the police department. You will need to make a list of any personal items that you want and maybe a second list of any items you gave to him or any sentimental items that you would like to have.
  • You should take these lists to the family first and ask them if they will let you have these things. Be very nice as this should not be a hassle for anyone involved.
  • If they refuse or only give you part of the lists then you should question why and hopefully they will give you an answer.
  • Then, if you are not satisfied with their response you can go to the police department that is located in the area where the family lives and explain the situation to them. If you have tried to get your personal items but was unsuccessful the police department should send an officer with you to request your items. This is the only legal way to do this unless you go through an attorney.
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  • You may not be able to get free attorney advice for this type of situation.
  • As a general rule, most states state that autopsy results/reports may only be released to the next of kin unless the next of kin authorizes their release to the public. You should be able to find out what is legally available by even a phone call to the coroner's office in your area.
  • If the family wishes to keep the autopsy results secrete then I feel sure they will not release them and have no obligation to disclose the results with you or anyone else.
  • It is usually a law in every state that an autopsy is required anytime a person dies if alone or if it is deemed a "suspicious" death.
  • It seems that for some reason his family is not willing to share any information with you and may feel that you have no right to his personal property. Continuing to question them may not be in your best interest as they may see it as a form of harassment and may become even more distant.
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  • You may have to be satisfied with what knowledge you have and move on with your life as the way you are working this does not seem to be working.
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