What is the Purpose of an Inquest?
When someone dies, a Coroner is appointed to investigate if it appears the death was violent or unnatural, if the cause of death was unknown or if the person died in prison or police custody.
The purpose of the Coroner’s investigations is so bereaved families know where and when their loved one died and also how their death came about. The Inquest is also required so this information can be documented on official records.
It’s often how they died or the cause of death that is the focus of most investigations and so a post-mortem examination may be carried out. If, despite the post-mortem examination, the cause of death still cannot be determined or if it’s found to be unnatural, then an Inquest is held.
An Inquest is a public Court hearing, so the Coroner may require witness and expert evidence to assist in their findings. The Inquest is a fact-finding process, and not used to apportion blame or responsibility. While the findings in the Inquest may lead to criminal or civil proceedings, these issues will be dealt with separately and in other Courts.
At the conclusion of the Inquest, the death may be registered. The following causes of death may be stated:
- Accident or misadventure
- Industrial disease
- Lawful killing
- Unlawful killing
- Natural causes
- Open/narrative - where none of the other findings apply, but instead a description of the factual findings is given
- Road traffic accident
What Must I Do if I Need to Attend an Inquest?
At Simpson Millar, we appreciate that dealing with an Inquest on top of your bereavement can be very difficult. But our Medical Negligence Solicitors can guide you through the process. We may be able to assist with questions to ask at the Inquest and in certain circumstances, it may be appropriate for us to attend with you.
As an Inquest is a fact-finding process, instruction of a Solicitor isn’t normally necessary and any questions which are asked should not stray outside of the purpose of the Inquest. The Coroner will not address legal issues such as the legal tests to prove medical negligence. If in any doubt, it’s always best to contact our Medical Negligence team.
Concerned about Findings at an Inquest?
Many of our clients only become concerned about a potential medical negligence claim once the Inquest has taken place and concerns have been raised about the care received.
Our Medical Negligence Solicitors are always happy to consider the written findings of an Inquest if one has already taken place to advise you whether there is likely to be a potential claim.
In many cases, the findings and independent expert evidence obtained can be very helpful in assessing and investigating a medical negligence case. In some cases, we’ve even been able to seek an early admission of liability following the findings of an Inquest.
If you’re concerned about Inquest findings and believe a loved one’s death could have been avoided, you may able to claim financial compensation for the Estate and any dependents.