Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction Assumed
Per RCW 68.50.010, a coroner investigates the cause and manner of death of persons within his or her jurisdiction. A coroner has jurisdiction over dead bodies only. A coroner does not have jurisdiction over surviving persons who are found near death or unconscious. The local law enforcement agencies have the jurisdiction to investigate these matters.

There are two types of jurisdiction that concern a coroner and the requirements of both types must be met before a coroner has valid jurisdiction. A coroner's legal jurisdiction is the jurisdiction authorized by the legislature and the Washington courts' interpretation of the statutes. A coroner's geographic jurisdiction is limited to the boundaries of the county in which he or she has been elected or appointed. Geographic jurisdiction is determined by the place where the death occurs or where the body is found, not by the place where the mortal incident occurs.

No Jurisdiction Assumed Cases
As per RCW 68.50.010, upon receiving the report of a death, the coroner determines whether or not to assume jurisdiction of that death. The coroner will assume jurisdiction of all deaths involving any type of trauma, accident, or violence.

"No Jurisdiction Assumed" (NJA) cases are most frequently those in which the deceased was without medical care for thirty-six hours preceding death and death is thought to be from natural causes. The coroner's office may apply a narrow interpretation of the legislative language "persons who come to their death suddenly when in apparent good health without medical attendance within the thirty-six hours preceding death." If both conditions (lack of medical care and apparent good health) apply, it is clearly an unexpected death and the coroner must assume jurisdiction. If one or both conditions do not apply, the case may be placed in the NJA category.

In order to qualify as an "NJA" case, there must be an attending outside physician who has knowledge and awareness of the patient's natural disease condition and is therefore able to reasonably certify the cause of death. The physician is responsible for certifying death on all NJA cases.

After receiving a report of a death, a coroner must determine whether or not to assume jurisdiction of the case. If the coroner decides not to take jurisdiction, that case may follow a "No Jurisdiction Assumed" procedure. Every NJA case should be given a local coroner NJA number. In certain counties, Vital Statistics of the local health department may not clear the death certificate without the NJA number.