When is a death a coroner’s case?
Everyone would say homicide, and yes, that is correct. Suicides and all accidents are also to be investigated by the coroner. But by far the largest segment of the deaths to be investigated by the coroner is in the natural manner.
Most county health departments report a one percent death rate in each county per year. Of this total, the coroner investigates about 12 percent of the cases. So if you have 200,000 people in your county and one percent die this year, then you will have 2,000 deaths. The coroners will then investigate about 240 cases with 60-70 percent of these natural deaths.
Natural deaths include people who have no attending physician to sign the death certificate. It is also composed of those individuals who die suddenly and unexpectedly, even though they have been seen recently by a physician. They include individuals who have affected their health by the use of drugs or alcohol.
All deaths of inmates while incarcerated or when the eventual cause of death is found to have originated while the victim was incarcerated is another type of death that is investigated by the coroner. Deaths of individuals who die of a disease that might constitute a threat to public health are also reviewed.Deaths of people whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea, transported out of state, or otherwise are unavailable for pathological study must be reviewed by the coroner. Deaths of transplant surgery donors that are the result of some type of trauma are also reviewed