Why is the Coroner involved in the death of my loved one?
The Coroner is required by state law to investigate all unnatural deaths, or deaths where the attending Medical Doctor is unable to state a cause of death as well as cases where the deceased has not been seen by a doctor for 20 days prior to death. Our responsibility is to establish positive identity of the deceased; determine the place, date and time; and the cause and classification of death. The Coroner's investigation is not limited to the examination of the deceased, but may include interviews with family members and other witnesses, the collection of physical evidence, and the safeguarding of personal property found at the death scene.
Where is my loved one being taken?
When necessary, your loved one is transported to the Orange County Coroner's Office in Santa Ana for autopsy or safekeeping, and later released to the family's authorized funeral home or cremation service.
Can I see my loved one at the coroner's office?
The coroner's office does not have the facilities for public visitation. The deceased will be released to a funeral home for viewing. For further information on your loved one's specific details, please contact the handling investigator or on duty Watch Commander.
What do I do now?
Contact the funeral home of your choice. They are prepared to assist you in making your selections and decisions. They will work closely with us to arrange the release of your loved one from our facility. They will also guide you in deciding how many certified copies of the death certificate that you will need & order them for you when they file with the county.
Is an autopsy needed?
Autopsies are not always necessary with every death investigated by the coroner. Roughly 3/4 of all deaths investigated by this coroner's office do not involve an autopsy examination. Autopsies are performed only on those cases where it is required by law or where it is necessary to determine the cause of death.
Are there any Coroner fees?
In accordance with state law, a fee of $318.00 is charged for transportation and handling. The mortuary or cremation society will generally bring a check for this amount when they come to the Coroner's Office to pick up your loved one. This charge then becomes part of the funeral expense. All other costs associated with the autopsy examination are covered by the County and not charged to the estate or the family members.
When can I have the funeral?
The Coroner will complete the examination portion of the investigation as soon as possible. For further information on your loved one's specific details, please contact the handling investigator or on duty Watch Commander. Our goal is to work with families in order to not delay funeral plans.
What if I have no money for funeral expenses?
If the deceased does not have sufficient funds for burial, the next of kin may apply for County disposition- (General Relief). The Orange County Social Services Agency or the county Public Administrator's office can possibly assist you with financial matters pertaining to funeral costs. In these circumstances, proof of indigence is required. The family should contact Social Services at (714) 834-8899.
Can I find out the cause of death?
Yes, in the majority of cases. Call the Coroner's Office in the late afternoon to learn the results of an autopsy conducted that day. Any member of the staff can furnish you with the cause and classification of death appearing on the Death Certificate. Occasionally to determine the cause of death further studies such as microscopic and toxicological tests must be performed. In these instances a "Pending" death certificate is released to the mortuary along with the deceased so that funeral services can be completed without delay. When these further studies or investigation have been completed an amended death certificate is issued. "Pending" death certificates can be purchased through the funeral home or County Health Department however, some financial, estate, probate or business matters may be dependent upon the final death certificate. Upon request, we will issue free of charge a "Verification of Death Letter". This is not a substitute for a death certificate, but it may assist you in settling some matters. Please call the office and request them if they will help.
How do I get copies of the Death Certificate?
Certified copies of the Death Certificate initially are ordered for the family by the funeral director handling final arrangements. Additional copies also may be purchased ($16.00 each) from the County of Orange Health Care Agency, Birth and Death Registration, located at 1200 N. Main Street #100-A, or Post Office Box 234, Santa Ana, CA 92702. Telephone - (714) 480-6700. If the death occurred more than 60 days ago, copies are available from the Orange County Clerk-Recorder Department, 12 Civic Center Plaza, Room 106, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Telephone (714) 834-2500. Following completion of the Coroner's investigation of a pending case, the Coroner will mail a letter to the next of kin explaining the Coroner’s findings, and forward an amendment to the Pending Death Certificate to the office of the local registrar in Santa Ana.
How do I get copies of Coroner records?
A copy of the autopsy report can be purchased at a cost of fifteen cents per page and may be ordered by mail or in person. During regular business hours, call the Coroner at (714) 647-7400 to learn the cost of the documents. When ordering by mail, please include the name of the deceased, date of death, Coroner Case Number, a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a check made payable to the Orange County Coroner Office, 1071 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana, CA 92703. Please be assured our office is at your service. If you have any other questions, please call us at (714) 647-7400.
How do I contact the Deputy Coroner in charge of my loved one's case?
Even though the Coroner's business office hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. excluding holidays, you may reach Coroner Investigations at any time of the day or night by calling (714) 647-7400. If the Deputy Coroner assigned to your loved one’s case is not on duty, another Deputy Coroner or the Supervising Deputy Coroner will either assist you or see that you receive a follow-up call from the assigned investigator.
How do I reclaim property taken by the Coroner?
The Coroner may release property directly to the legal next of kin, or to any other person furnishing written authorization from the legal next of kin. Property is often released with the deceased to the funeral service making removal. Property release hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. excluding holidays.