The Funeral Industry and Assistance to Families of Crash Victims

The Funeral Industry and Assistance to Families of Crash VictimsOn the Arrive Alive website, we strive to create awareness of road safety with information to keep our road users safe and to prevent road deaths and injury.

Unfortunately, not everyone obeys the rules of the road and reckless and lawless behaviour result in death and despair for more than 14,000 road users and their family members annually.

How can we assist the families of those who die in these road crashes? It is important to not only offer safety advice as part of awareness to prevent road crashes, but also create awareness of post-crash care!

In an effort to reduce trauma for the family of those who have died on our roads, we share information on the correct manner of notification of death and offer some advice on trauma counselling. 

We decided to approach the funeral industry to gain some insights on how this industry is aiding families of crash victims and to offer some advice on how to prevent further financial and emotional harm:

What is Usually the Process from a Fatal Crash to the Funeral?

Police will notify the closest government mortuary to remove the deceased from place of death. In all cases where any unnatural death is suspected [such as in the event of a road crash], the body MUST go to the government mortuary for a post-mortem.

Police will notify the family of the death.

The family must identify the deceased at the mortuary.

The government mortuary will conduct a post-mortem on the deceased and the pathologist will issue a DHA 1663 (death certificate).

If it is a cremation a Schedule D will be issued with the DHA 1663.

The family will be able to instruct a funeral home of choice to collect the deceased from the Government Hospital.

This process can take anything from 1day to a week depending on the workload of the state mortuary.

The funeral director will assist the family with all the funeral arrangements which include the following:

  • Preservation and preparation of deceased
  • Obtaining the death certificate
  • Registration of death at the Department of Home Affairs - a printed BI-5 is issued
  • Arranging with the clergy at church
  • Reservation of grave or cremation
  • Placing of press notice (on request)
  • Flower arrangements
  • Design and printing of hymn sheets

Preparing the burial site with lowering devices, mats, gazebo’s, water etc.

Conducting the funeral service.

Conducting the Funeral Service

Who are the role-players involved in the process and could this be done seamlessly without much delay?

  • Police: The investigating officer deals with the road crash and subsequent investigations.
  • Department of Health: The Government Mortuary deals with the body of the deceased.
  • Department of Home Affairs - Registration of death, BI-14 (removal order)
  • Ambulance Service: The ambulance service may be involved. If the patient was not deceased at the scene of the accident, the patient will go to a hospital. If it is a DOA (death on arrival) the ambulance will take such deceased to the state mortuary.
  • Hospital: Where the road crash victim did not die on the scene of the crash, gets medical treatment and still dies, the deceased will be taken to the hospital mortuary, the treating doctors will complete documents and then the state mortuary will collect the deceased.
  • Funeral Home
  • Municipality - Cemetery

What are the documentation and forms or statements etc needed in this process?

  • Investigating Officer statements: The SAPS will open a culpable homicide docket for investigation and statements will be collected from the people involved and witnesses.
  • A SAPS 180 is completed at the scene and given with deceased to the state mortuary.
  • The family will identify the deceased on a SAPS 377 at the mortuary.
  • The post-mortem report will be compiled with all the tests (blood alcohol etc) and handed to the Investigating officer. (this could take months)
  • DHA-1663 (death certificate)
  • BI-14 (burial order)
  • BI-5 (registered death certificate)
  • Form 382 (release form at Government Mortuary):
  • After post-mortem, the undertaker can remove the deceased with a SAPS 382 (permission from family)

What is the nature of funeral cover? What is usually covered and what is not covered?

What is the nature of funeral cover? What is usually covered and what is not covered?

  • Standard Funeral Cover is a funeral policy that pays out a cash amount to the nominated beneficiary.
  • The policy must be underwritten by an Insurance Company.
  • Some Funeral Directors offer their clients a funeral package and renders a service to the value of the covered amount.
  • This package (policy) must still be underwritten by an Insurance Company.
  • Funeral cover falls under assistance business in insurance. This can be up to the amount of R30 000.00 for a funeral but is not limited with extras that can be added as benefits.
  • Depending on the supplier it will be stipulated what is covered and what not.
  • Extras are normally graves, busses, transport out of the region, tombstones, catering but not limited to that.

Which factors are the most important in considering a cost estimate of a burial/funeral?

  • If the family decides on a cremation it will be cheaper than a funeral as there is no tombstone to be erected.
  • Is it a private cremation or will there be a full church service?
  • The selection of the coffin will have an impact on the costs.
  • Personalization of the funeral will impact the costs - e.g. doves at the cemetery etc.
  • The costs vary and are dependent on the family’s requirements.

What are the pitfalls we need to guard against? What usually goes wrong and could leave the family with unnecessary expenses?

  • Make sure you have funeral cover always - you do not want to leave your loved ones with a financial burden.
  • Know your funeral director before you need him/her!
  • Do not be influenced by a paramedic, medical personnel, police officer etc. to refer you to a funeral director.
  • Do your research and determine which Funeral director will fulfill your last wishes.
  • If you end up with an unethical funeral director you will pay the price.
  • Where the body is collected by an undertaker and then moved to another for service it can be costly as the removal costs are not regulated if you do not belong to one of the funeral associations.

What is the role of the “Funeral Director”?

What is the role of the “Funeral Director”?

The funeral director's role is to offer guidance and support to the family, to make arrangements for the funeral service, arrange for care of the deceased and provide professional advice.

Above all, your funeral director will try to ease your burden at this most distressing time by taking on the practical aspects of arranging a funeral, including:

  • Organising the collection of your loved one from a hospital, nursing home or home address, and transport to the funeral home.
  • Care and preparation of the deceased.
  • Guiding you through legal processes such as completing documentation and registering the death.
  • Liaising with the clergy, cemetery/crematorium to set the date and time of the funeral/cremation.
  • Paying disbursements such as flowers, doctor’s fees, crematorium fees, cemetery fees on your behalf.
  • Arranging photo canvasses, floral tributes and newspaper announcements.
  • Conducting the funeral service and providing vehicles as required for family and mourners.

What are the most important vehicle needs and what are the factors considered when deciding on a specific vehicle for the burial?

  • Purpose of use (can vehicle fit a coffin or stretcher?). The role the vehicle is used for will also determine the type of vehicle(removals/funerals).
  • How many passengers will there be? (Family car)
  • Economical value. (Fuel consumption etc.)
  • Safety features. (Airbags, ABS Brakes)
  • Service, maintenance and roadside assistance plan.
  • The region and clientele will dictate the vehicles to be used. Pricing and quality are the main concerns when a vehicle is purchased.

Which factors may influence the decision as to the appropriate vehicles?

  • The geographical area where the funeral is to take place will dictate the vehicle needs.
  • Will transport be along tarred or gravel roads?
  • A 4x4 vehicle may be needed in a rural area on a dirt road.

Should the Funeral director also play in role in the transportation needs of fellow mourners?

  • If needed (It does place an additional safety risk on the funeral director).
  • Most funeral services believe only the transportation of immediate family must be the funeral director’s responsibility.
  • Additional transport may be provided if so required by the immediate family.

Is counselling and emergency medical assistance a consideration when planning a funeral?

Is counselling and emergency medical assistance a consideration when planning a funeral?

  • When pre-planning a funeral all risk factors must be taken into consideration.
  • Most funeral policies have the emergency medical assistance and counselling as an additional benefit.
  • The family must be involved and pre-plan their funeral - it is an act of love. They may have the best insights to the special needs or risks associated with the health and wellbeing of some family members.

Where can families of crash victims find more information?

  • The local police or local emergency services.
  • The state mortuary.
  • Local funeral parlour/director
  • Arrive Alive campaign can assist with information

What is the best advice the funeral industry can offer as guidance to the families of crash victims?

  • Take time to get all the family involved before decisions are made regarding the funeral/cremation and arrangement in this regard.
  • Make sure you use a reputable Funeral Parlour that is registered and have a registered mortuary with a COC (certificate of competence) to preserve their family.
  • Have a budget in mind and stick to it. Do not inflate the service with elaborate requests for expensive flowers and funeral letters.
  • Weigh up the options of cremation and funeral as there can be a huge difference.
  • If you have a funeral policy you are in charge of that and can decide who must do your funeral. This means you can claim such policy and use any supplier.
  • Be aware there are policies that will not pay out if a specified supplier is not used.
  • Communicate with the funeral service provider in your area in pre-planning a funeral so that the family is aware of the funeral directors’ contact details in ANY circumstance.
  • Seeing that it is a sudden or unexpected death counselling might be necessary.
  • Do not rush into the decisions you make for the funeral/cremation. Ask different suppliers for quotes but make sure you compare the same services.

A word of appreciation to the following for their assistance:

Rachel Steed:

Elsabe M Basilio: Grobbelaars Funeral Services

Deon Koekemoer: Martins Funeral Franchising

Also view:

Notification of Death after a Road Crash

Trauma Counselling and Road Safety

The Road Accident Fund and Funeral Claims