Accidental Trauma Mimicking Homicidal Violence

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Homicide investigations represent an important function of death investigators. Although recognizing nonobvious homicides is crucial, an equally important role involves the identification of cases that initially present as possible homicides, but are ultimately discovered to notrepresent homicides. Failure to recognize such cases results in wasted time, squandered resources, false allegations, and potential life-altering consequences. The authors review a series of cases wherein initial investigation suggested a possibility that the deaths represented homicides. By carefully considering additional information, including scene findings, history, and postmortem examination, each was determined to represent an accidental traumatic death. In addition to highlighting the importance of recognizing accidental traumatic deaths that initially present as homicides, the cases serve to highlight the fact that forensic pathology cannot be practiced without knowledge of appropriate ancillary information. Although guarding against cognitive bias is important in all forensic disciplines, including forensic pathology, access to vital case-related ancillary information is an essential component of practicing medicine as a forensic pathologist.