Jefferson County, Alabama

Family Information Brochures and FAQs


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Information for the Family

On behalf of the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office, we offer our most sincere condolences to you and your family for the loss of your loved one.  It is our hope that this information will assist you during the grieving process and help answer questions about the role of the Medical Examiner.

What do I do next when a loved one dies?
  • Notify family members of the loved one’s death.
  • Speak with other family members and discuss with them about funeral arrangements and final disposition.
  • Contact a funeral home or crematory of your choosing and make an appointment to meet and discuss with them about funeral arrangements for burial or cremation.
  • Once you have chosen a funeral home or crematory, the funeral director will have you sign a body release authorization permit, which the funeral director will transmit to the Coroner/ME’s Office.
  • Upon completion of the examination or autopsy and the receipt of the signed body release permit, the Coroner/ME’s Office will contact the funeral director and authorize the funeral home to pick up and transport your loved one’s remains to the funeral home.
Body Release Procedure / Right to Make Claim
  1. Within the first 3 days of death, the body shall only be released to the known next of kin.
  2. If after 3 days from death, the known next of kin is unavailable or fails or refuses to assert authority for control of the deceased, the authority will be deemed to be waived.  The body shall be released to the person of highest kinship who has made claim by submission of a body release order.
  3. The following kinship hierarchy shall be used when determining rights to make claim of a body:
    1. Spouse (husband, wife).
    2. Adult child (at least 18 years of age).  Any one child may give the release order. If there is a dispute, the office will accept the order from the first child to give it.
    3. Grandchild.  If there is a dispute, the office will accept the order from the first grandchild to give it.
    4. Parents.  If there is a dispute, the office will accept the order from the first parent to give it.
    5. Sibling.  If there is a dispute, the office will accept the order from the first sibling to give it.
    6. Grandparents.  If there is a dispute, the office will accept the order from the first grandparent to give it.
    7. Guardian.
    8. Representative of the estate of the decedent.
    9. Other family in order of hierarchy (uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, cousin, etc.).
    10. Other persons willing to make claim (friend, neighbor, coworker, etc.).
    11. Governmental entity responsible for disposition of the remains (ex. indigent county burial, Department of Corrections, etc.).
Why is the Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office involved?
Pursuant to State of Alabama Code 45-37-60 (Act 79-454,p.739, §1-10)the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office is responsible for investigating all sudden and unexpected deaths occurring in Jefferson County, Alabama.
Where was the deceased taken?
The deceased was transported to the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office morgue:
Cooper Green Mercy Health Services
1515 6th Avenue South, Suite 220
Birmingham, Alabama 35233.
Is it necessary for family to come to the Coroner/ME’s Office to identify the deceased?
No. In most cases visual identification is obtained by investigators at the location of death.  In some cases though, positive identification may have to be obtained by one of the following forensic processes: fingerprint, dental, or x-ray comparison, medical implants or devices, DNA, or anthropology.
Is viewing allowed at the Coroner/ME’s Office?
No. The Coroner/ME’s Office does not have an area for viewing.  Arrangements for viewing at the funeral home should be made with your funeral director.
Will an examination or autopsy be performed?
Yes. An examination is performed in every case assumed, but depending on the circumstances surrounding the death an autopsy is not always required.
Why is an examination/autopsy necessary?
An examination/autopsy is necessary to accurately determine cause, manner, and circumstances surrounding the death, so to satisfy statuary requirements, for the good of public health, and to assist with potential civil and criminal litigation.
Will an examination or autopsy prevent a funeral service or viewing?
No. These procedures do not prevent the deceased from being viewed or preclude a funeral service.
Do I have to pay for the autopsy?
No. Examinations and autopsy costs are paid for with public funds.
How long will the decedent remain at the Coroner/ME’s Office?
Typically the examination or autopsy will be performed the day following death. Normally the deceased can be released to the funeral home of the family’s choice on that day.
Can I get a preliminary report?
No. There are no preliminary reports.
How do I obtain a copy of an examination/autopsy report?
The final examination/autopsy report is usually available within 6-8 weeks after the date of death.  The family is provided one copy of the report at no charge.  To obtain a copy of the final report, contact the Coroner/ME’s Office Monday through Friday, 8:30 am –4:00 pm.
Note: The Coroner/ME’s Office final report is public record and must be released to the public or media if properly requested, but we will strive to notify family first.
How do I obtain personal property?
Personal property that was transported with the deceased to the morgue is inventoried and secured in the Coroner/ME’s Office property room. The personal property will be released with the body to the funeral home representative performing the removal.  Family should speak with their funeral director about obtaining the property from the funeral home.
Pursuant to State of Alabama Code 15-4-10 (Appendix 2), any personal property not claimed by family will be transferred to the Jefferson County Treasure to be sold at county auction.
How do I obtain a death certificate?
There are two ways to obtain copies of the death certificate:
  1. Your chosen funeral home or crematory can assist you with obtaining copies of the death certificate.
  2. You can also contact the:
Jefferson County Health Department


Alabama Vital Records
Note: The Coroner/ME’s Office cannot issue death certificates.

How can I get a private autopsy?
The Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner's Office does not perform private autopsies.  Private autopsies may be available for a fee through the Department of Pathology of a medical center, particularly a medical center with an academic training program for pathology residents.  Also, the College of American Pathologist offers a list of individuals willing to perform a private autopsy by state.  (See

How can I find an expert witness in forensic pathology?
The pathologists that work in the Jefferson County Coroner/medical Examiner's Office do not wish to take outside cases in consultation through the Coroner/ME Office at this time.  The National Association of Medical Examiners maintains a list of forensic consultants willing to engage in consultation work. (See