When a loved one dies, dealing with their loss can be distressing. If the death is referred to a coroner’s court for an inquest it can often cause further upset.
Under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, close family members have the right to ask questions at inquest if they want to. A ‘properly interested person’ (parent, child, spouse or partner of the deceased) can be represented by a lawyer at the hearing.
Unfortunately, public funding for inquests – known as Legal Aid – is severely limited. In most cases, the deceased’s family will probably have to pay for a lawyer to attend and represent them at an inquest.
However, there are two main exceptions to this rule…
Some inquests are so complex that it would be impossible to proceed without legal representation. For cases like this, a coroner can ask for Legal Aid to be awarded.
Since 15 June 2018, the Ministry of Justice has put new public funding rules in place so that families affected by a suicide or non-natural death of a loved one (when detained by the police, in prison or under the Mental Health Act 1983) are more likely to be awarded Legal Aid.
The decision to relax the public funding rules in this way follows several high-profile inquests, where the conduct of the state or public organisations were placed under severe scrutiny.
Although the number of deaths in detention only accounts for around 2% of all inquests, this significant decision means bereaved families will now find it much easier to gain access to justice – and the answers they deserve.
In exceptional cases like of this nature, it must be proven that there is a “significant wider public interest” in the applicant being legally represented. The family’s ability to effectively participate in the inquest without a lawyer must be considered. So too is the nature and seriousness of any allegations, particularly those against state-operated authorities.
For public funding to be approved, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) must be satisfied that paid legal representation is required to help the coroner establish the facts relating to the death and investigate the case thoroughly.
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Depending on the circumstances of the non-natural death, it may be possible to secure funding for inquest representation on a “no win-no fee” basis as part of a personal injury or negligence case.
If a loved one has died because of an accident which was not their fault or a mistake made during medical treatment, there may be a negligence claim relating to their death. Taking this course of action would allow you gain access to funding for an inquest solicitor.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we are experienced at providing pre-inquest advice and our experts can tell you the best way to fund legal representation at an inquest hearing. We can also advise you whether a claim for compensation can be made, please contact us to discover the exact steps you must take to get the justice you deserve.
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