An inquest is a public hearing, held by a coroner, and is usually held where a death:
- is due to an accident or injury
- is due to an industrial accident
- follows surgery or before recovery from an anaesthetic
- is violent or unnatural
- is sudden or unexplained
- or the cause is unknown or unclear.
For families already coping with the loss of a loved one, dealing with what is likely to be their first experience of an inquest may cause additional pressure and distress.
However, it is important to remember that the focus of the inquest is not to establish blame but to determine who has died and when, where and how they died, and the process is therefore likely to answer many of the questions to which the family will be seeking answers.
At Gregg Latchams in Bristol, we are experienced in dealing with coroners’ inquests and can assist in advance of the hearing and at the inquest itself.
Some coroners hold pre-inquest hearings to discuss issues of concern with relatives and we can attend these with you or on your behalf. We can examine documents that the coroner discloses, such as medical records, a post mortem report and statements, identify the issues on which you require clarification and ask relevant questions of witnesses at the inquest, including those involved in the deceased’s medical care. We can also advise on the kind of questions that family members called as witnesses may be asked.
Where a death involved a road accident, an accident at work, or other circumstances that could lead to a claim for compensation, we can advise on the likely success of such a claim. In these cases, legal representation is a sensible step.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an inquest, it is possible to challenge the verdict, although this is a complex area. It is also important to remember that legal aid is not generally available for legal representation at coroners’ inquests and in most cases, such representation would need to be self-funded.