So far in 2017, there have been several instances of human remains being found on construction sites, including in Phoenix and Philadelphia. The situation, while grim, is not completely uncommon. As we all know, excavation is a primary part of construction and contractors aren’t always aware of the history of the area they are building on prior to the start of a project. However, if a worker or subcontractor does discover human bones during construction, it’s crucial that they follow proper procedures for dealing with this situation. Criminal charges can be filed if they don’t.
When Human Bones are Discovered
Here are the steps to take if you or a someone on your project discovers human remains:
- Halt construction tasks immediately: It’s critical that all work is halted at this point. No one wants to incur a delay, but there are a number of factors that make this important, which we will get into later.
- Contact the Property Owner: They must be made abreast of the situation. From there, they are obligated to contact law enforcement to assess the scene.
- Law Enforcement will assess the human remains: Human remains may be an archaeological find or a more recent death. If it’s an archeological find, depending on state statutes, the remains will likely have to be reburied immediately. If the remains are newer, there’s a possibility that a crime took place, making the area a crime scene.
- Determine if land is not an archaeological resource: According to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, an “archaeological resource” is “any material remains of human life or activities which are at least 100 years of age, and which are of archaeological interest.” This is important to know prior to the start of construction. However, it’s overlooked at times. If it is determined that your site is and archaeological resource site, an archaeological monitoring plan can be put in place with procedures for dealing with any other artifacts that may surface. As always, a Tallahassee construction law attorney is here to protect your rights in this process.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.