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What is an Inquest?
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. Its only purpose is to establish fact and does not seek to apportion blame for causing the accident.
Relatives and certain other interested people have the opportunity to ask questions. This can be done personally though they have the right 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 the inquest 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 fatal accident claim by the Estate, against a third party arising from the accident which caused 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 in an attempt to draw out more information than was in their witness statement or in the police report.
Ahead of the inquest, advance disclosure of relevant documents can be obtained. This will usually include any witness statements, the police report, and the 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?
It’s often the case that we can attend the inquest at no cost to you. If we’re already instructed in a fatal injuries claim we will likely be able to attend under the no-win, no-fee agreement.
Even if we’re not already instructed, it’s often the case the deceased’s own insurance policy will pay for our cost of attending the inquest.