Dealing with an inquest can be difficult, but dealing with legal formalities after the death of a loved one needn’t rest solely on your shoulders. Your solicitor can support you throughout the process, offering guidance regarding pre-reviews, reviews and expected outcomes.
Every inquest investigation follows a very similar process, although naturally, each is unique and can require individual information dependant on a number of factors. To help you understand what to expect during an inquest investigation, here are the ways we can guide you through the process, and prepare you for the structure inquests usually follow.
What is an inquest investigation or a “Coroner’s Inquest”?
When a person dies, usually a doctor has the authority to sign off their death, making it official in the eyes of the law.
In some cases however, a doctor is not legally permitted to sign off a death. These cases include situations where the death is unexplained, or has happened due to the actions of others. In these situations, the death is reported to a coroner and an inquest into the cause of death begins.
Inquests are usually raised in the following types of circumstances:
- the cause of death is unknown, sudden or unexplained
- the death was violent or unnatural
- the person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness
- a medical certificate is not available
- the person who died was not seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died
- the death occurred during an operation or before the person came out of anaesthetic
- the medical certificate suggests the death may have been caused by an industrial disease or industrial poisoning
Inquests are also raised with the coroner under the following circumstances:
- Death following police contact
- Death in police custody
- Death in prison
- Death on a psychiatric ward
- Death in an immigration detention centre
- Death in hospital
If the above relate to the type of inquest you are dealing with, please contact the DRN team so we can advise you on the best course of action moving forward.
Why does an Inquest take place?
When conducting an inquest inquiry, the professionals involved are looking for answers to four main questions:
- Who the deceased is
- Where they died
- When they died
- How they died
Although these questions seem simple to answer, in some cases experts must be consulted in order to make a definitive decision – particularly if the death is suspected to be another person’s fault.
What happens during an inquest investigation?
When an inquest investigation is opened, it is done so by the coroner.
The coroner will then oversee a range of enquiries aimed at answering the four main questions asked about the deceased. These enquiries might include researching and obtaining information from witness statements, medical records, expert reports, police records and even CCTV evidence.
How long will it take to complete the inquest investigation?
An inquest must begin as soon as possible, but at the most, within six months from the date of death by law. More complicated investigations (particularly if they involved the police or health service, for example) take significantly longer.
Will I be involved in the inquest investigation?
All inquests have individuals involved names as “Properly Interested Persons” or PIPs who are usually family members of the deceased and individuals responsible for the care of the deceased during their final days. If you are a PIP you will be actively involved in the inquest investigation process, and will be allowed to be legally represented.
As a PIP, you will be able to ask questions of the witnesses at inquest hearings and will also receive any and all relevant documentation relating to the investigation.
Legal Aid is available for families to be represented at an inquest in some circumstances.
When you first approach us about your case, we will be able to discuss whether Legal Aid is likely to be available to you and anyone else dealing with the investigation, and support you with accessing the funding. We can also help you to find out about the alternative fee arrangements which might be available if Legal Aid is not an option.
Will compensation following an inquest be available?
You cannot get compensation as part of an inquest investigation or while it is in process. However, if during the course of the investigation relevant evidence is brought forward, there may be grounds to bring a claim against individuals or organisations involved for causing the death.
How can DRN help me with the inquest process?
Our experienced team of inquest solicitors will advise you on the correct and appropriate courses of action throughout the inquest and provide information on the investigations that will occur, and the conclusions that may be made.
We can also support you with the appeal process, should you wish to appeal the conclusions of an inquest.
For more information, please call us on 01282 433 241