Representing bereaved family members
We have experienced litigation solicitors available to provide advice, support and representation to families who have suffered a bereavement and are involved in the process of a Coroner’s inquest. We are able to provide a complete service from initial advice through to representation at the inquest itself.
The purpose of an inquest is to determine certain facts about the deceased, and to establish the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding the death. An inquest aims to establish facts about a death. It is not a method of apportioning blame. It is not a trial and there is no judgment in favour of one party against another. However, the inquest may be an opportunity to find answers to questions that you want answered. Depending on the particular circumstances, the Coroner may decide the facts on his or her own or may sit with a jury. Lawyers, medical professionals, the Coroner, the family and any other interested persons (including those who conduct may be called into question) take part in an enquiry into the events which have led to a person’s death.
Sometimes the family of a person who has died may be entitled to claim compensation, for example, if there has been an accident at work, a road traffic accident or a negligent medical procedure. Compensation may also be available if the person has died from an industrial disease such as mesothelioma or asbestos related cancer. Although the question of compensation is not decided at the inquest, what happens at the inquest can affect any compensation claim. For example, evidence given at the inquest may affect an insurer’s decision as to whether to settle a claim out of court. Sometimes you may also be able to recover a sum towards the costs of legal representation at an inquest as part of a related compensation claim.
Our experienced solicitors can support you through all aspects of the inquest process, giving initial advice on whether legal representation might be needed, guiding you through your dealings with the Coroner’s Officer before the inquest and acting as your advocate at the inquest itself. We help our clients understand the benefits, strengths and limitations of the inquest process and support them throughout.
Inquests – Representing Healthcare and Care Industry professionals
If you are a care or healthcare professional who is called to give evidence before Coroner’s inquests, our lawyers are available to support you. An inquest never determines blame so there is no judgment in favour of one party against another. However the fact finding process and observations by the Coroner, including reports to prevent future deaths, can have a significant effect on individuals or institutions whose actions may have been called into question. This could be negative publicity, or legal consequences such as prosecution, referrals to a professional regulatory body or a civil claim for compensation. The stakes may therefore be high for all concerned. If you have received a letter requiring your attendance at an inquest or you are concerned that your organisation may have an interest in the outcome of an inquest, you should take legal advice. Engaging with the process through expert representation will ensure that your interests are, as far as possible, protected and that your position is advanced in the most effective way possible. For example, we can provide advice about whether a witness should exercise their right not to answer certain questions where the answers might incriminate them. We can also make legal representations to the Coroner on your behalf about the verdicts legally available on the basis of the evidence that has been heard.
Andrew Clarke has several years of experience of representing a large healthcare organisation and its staff at inquests. We understand very well that the prospect of giving evidence at an inquest may be daunting one for the individuals concerned. We therefore offer support throughout the process, explain the procedures, advise on dealings with the Coroner, on requests for disclosure of documentation, the implications of possible Coroner’s verdicts and on what to expect at the hearing itself.
We appreciate that being required to give evidence at an inquest can be daunting. We are able to explain the procedures, provide support to our professional clients throughout the process, and advise on the implications of any possible Coroner’s verdicts.
Inquests - Representing employers and organisations following workplace fatalities
In the case of a workplace fatality, an inquest may be held before the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has decided whether a Company will be prosecuted for a health and safety offence. The Coroner’s Court is the initial forum where witness evidence and documentation are considered and aired in a public setting. The way an inquest is handled by a company (or other person or organisation) may reduce the likelihood of a health and safety prosecution, or affect the way it is pursued. If an inquest goes badly for the company under investigation, this could increase the risk of prosecution and even assist the prosecution in building their case. The stakes are therefore often high for a company or other body which is involved in an inquest. Early legal advice should always be obtained.
Inquests - Representing motorists blamed for a fatal road traffic accident
Similar considerations to those set out above apply where a motorist is being blamed for a fatal road accident.
Where a criminal prosecution has not yet been commenced, difficult decisions may have to be made about whether to exercise your right not to incriminate yourself by answering particular questions. Given the potential impact that the proceedings may have on any criminal prosecution, drivers would be well advised to seek legal representation.