The Inquest Process
When someone has died and the Coroner has requested an Inquest, they will usually “open” the inquest as soon as possible after the death. Then they postpone the hearing so the family can have a funeral.
It is only once the investigations are complete the actual Inquest hearing will take place.
Coroners ask for a variety of investigations depending on the circumstances. For example:
- reports from the Health and Safety Executive if a person has died at work,
- criminal investigations if a person was murdered,
- police reports after a car accident and
- reports from medical experts in the case of clinical negligence.
Usually the Coroner will request their own reports. Sometimes we recommend that we instruct an expert who will provide extra evidence that can be admitted by the Coroner. This can be a difficult time for families as it can take many months until the Inquest takes place and sometimes longer. We realise that this adds to your emotional strain so we will do everything we can to help you during the process.
During this time the Coroner may hold several meetings in person (known as pre inquest hearings). The Coroner uses these meetings to make sure everyone involved understands the issues that will be considered at the inquest. We attend those hearings on behalf of clients and we put forward concerns you have raised. We will tell you if we think you need your own expert evidence. The Coroner has the final decision about calling witnesses and who can be represented at an Inquest. We will do our best to make sure the Coroner hears all the evidence that is important to your case.
Usually an Inquest is held before a Coroner alone. Sometimes there will be a jury, for example, if a person has died in prison or police custody. A jury is also sworn in when there is a fatal accident at work or a suspicious death in hospitals and care homes.
Relatives can ask witnesses questions at the Inquest. However, you will probably find the hearing very upsetting so we recommend that your lawyer asks questions on your behalf. We will talk about this with you when we are preparing for the Inquest and will tell you what to expect.
The Coroner does not decide if someone is responsible for the death but they can give a narrative conclusion. This conclusion can help us to decide if a compensation claim is possible because it details any failings which have contributed to the death.