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The Inquest Process: What can you do?

13 Apr 2018

The death of a loved one is always a difficult time. But what should you do if a Coroner decides to hold an investigation into a death? Our specialist clinical negligence team at Hay & Kilner can help. Lauren Hall, solicitor explains how.

If a Coroner decides to open an Inquest into the death of a loved one, the aim of the Inquest is to investigate the circumstances of the death and to answer 4 specific questions; 1) who was the deceased, 2) when did the deceased pass away 3)where and, importantly, 4) how did they come by their death. The Coroner will become involved if the death was sudden and unexpected or there may be concerns about how the death occurred particularly if there had been recent medical treatment, or hospital admission. These questions will often be explored at an Inquest Hearing.

Before the hearing, the Coroner and his or her team carries out investigations and obtains information and documentation from family members, healthcare professionals, and government bodies. This information is presented at the Hearing and the Coroner can call witnesses to give evidence and ask questions. The Coroner’s role is not to attribute blame to any interested party but to look at the acts or omissions of those who may have been involved in the deceased’s care or treatment. Once the evidence has been heard, the Coroner gives a verdict which can be a short verdict such as accident, misadventure, or natural causes. However, more often, a narrative verdict is given which is more detailed and allows the Coroner to say whether, in his or her opinion, treatment or lack of treatment, acts or omissions, may have been relevant in how the deceased came about their death. The Coroner can also make recommendations to organisations, such as NHS Trusts, that policies, procedures, or training must be implemented or improved to ensure any mistakes which have occurred do not happen again.

The Inquest process can be extremely daunting for a family to navigate at such a difficult time. However it can be a useful opportunity to ask questions to help you understand what has happened. At Hay & Kilner, we have represented a great number of families at Inquest. We have assisted families at the Hearing, by arranging legal representation on their behalf to ensure, as much as possible, those important questions are asked, and also in the preparation for the Inquest in obtaining and reviewing important documentation. In some cases we also obtain independent expert evidence which may assist the Coroner in understanding the circumstances of the death.

If you have been told that a Coroner is investigating a loved one’s death and you aren’t sure what to do, please contact us for free confidential advice. We’ll be there to help and support you every step of the way.

For more information on any of the above or, how we can help your business, please contact Lauren Hall, or call 0191 232 8345.