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Inquests

 

What is the purpose of an inquest?
 
An Inquest is a medical/legal enquiry held by a Coroner into a death which was unnatural or a sudden death where the cause is unknown. The purpose of an inquest is to establish the identity of the deceased, when the person died, where they died and how the death occurred.
 
The inquest is not a trial and does not seek to apportion blame.
 
Relatives and certain other people have the opportunity to ask questions and to have legal representation, if they wish.
 
What role does the Coroner perform?
 
The Coroner, who is a lawyer, a doctor or both, will hear all the evidence that the Coroner’s Officer presents to him/her and will determine the cause of death.
 
A Coroner’s Officer is responsible for investigating the cause of death and presenting the evidence in Court on the day of the Inquest.
 
 
What will happen at the inquest?
 
Most, if not all, of the witnesses who appear at the inquest will have given statements in advance. If a witness has not been asked to attend the inquest then that statement will be the total of that person’s evidence. 
 
If any witness has been asked to attend then the Coroner may call these witnesses and question them further in relation to their statements. After each witness has given their evidence, the family or their legal representatives are given the opportunity to question them.  
 
The Coroner may also ask members of the family to give a little background information about their relative. 
 
At the end of the Inquest the Coroner will give his/her verdict, which will be entered on the final Death Certificate by the Registrar. In road traffic accidents the most common verdict is accidental death.
 
 
Do I need representation?
 
We strongly advise you to have legal representation at the inquest. Where there is the possibility of a civil claim by the Estate against a third party arising from the deceased’s death, inquests can be a very useful source of information at an early stage.  
 
For example the Coroner can be asked to call particular witnesses so that they can give oral evidence and the solicitor or barrister representing the family of the deceased can question them at the hearing.
 
Advance disclosure can be sought, for example of a collision investigator’s report, which will be an expert opinion as to how a fatal collision occurred. This can be vital as there may have been a contaminant on the road surface, a vehicular defect (which will be dealt with by a police vehicle examiner) or a problem with the road surface itself. Also the issue of speed will no doubt be addressed in this report.
 
 
What will it cost?
 
If the cause of death is the result of a road accident we may be able attend the Inquest at no cost to you.
 
Often, an insurance policy will pay for our cost of attending the inquest or, if the evidence is that a successful civil claim can be brought, we may be able to act on a no-win, no-fee basis.
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