Trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of a loved one can be a deeply distressing experience, especially when the exact circumstances of their death are unknown or unclear. This tragic time can feel even more stressful if you need to navigate your way through an inquest as a family or individual, which for many can prove very difficult emotionally.
Inquests provide ‘properly interested persons’ – such as the deceased’s parents, children, spouse or partner – with the opportunity to pose questions to witnesses during a formal evidence-giving process.
An inquest is usually held when:
- A person dies in a sudden, violent or unnatural way.
- A person dies having been in contact with state bodies (NHS, police, prison service).
- A private organisation is involved in the death.
- The cause of death is unknown after a post mortem examination.
In theory, inquests are supposed to be fully accessible to the deceased’s family and non-adversarial, with everyone working together co-operatively to reach the best resolution. Sadly, in practice, this is not always the case.
In many circumstances, particularly inquests involving public institutions such as the police, NHS, or prison service, legal representation is the best way to ensure you discover all the facts.
Such inquests can be lengthy, detailed and complex, and you will benefit from having the support of legal experts to ascertain whether more could have been done to prevent your loved one’s death.
Specialist in Inquests
Inquests can arise for a wide range of reasons, including cases of medical negligence or situations where serious and fatal injuries have been suffered. Our dedicated inquest solicitors are vastly experienced in the field, and they will be able to guide you every step of the way.
- Your appointed inquest lawyer will liaise with the Coroner on your behalf and keep you updated at all times.
- We will advise you in relation to the process involved and ease any concerns or worries you may have.
- Keep you informed in respect of timescales.
- Legal representation at pre-inquest reviews and at the inquest itself.
We are members of INQUEST which is the only charity providing expertise on state related deaths and their investigation to bereaved people, lawyers, advice and support agencies, the media and parliamentarians.
How our inquest solicitors can help you
Inquests can arise for a wide range of reasons, including cases of medical negligence or situations where serious and fatal injuries have been suffered. Our dedicated inquest solicitors are vastly experienced in the field, and they will be able to guide you every step of the way. Your appointed inquest solicitor will:
- Liaise with the Coroner for you
- Advise you in relation to the process involved
- Keep you informed in respect of timescales
- Represent you at pre-inquest reviews and inquests themselves
Our expert inquest solicitors are experienced at helping families find out the truth. Not only will we look to obtain answers about the circumstances of how your loved one died, we will try to highlight any failings or acts of negligence which may have contributed to their death.
Our Inquest Experts
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Neil Hudgell acted for Bernie, Jack and Lucy Sargeant, the family of former Welsh Government cabinet minister Carl Sargeant at the inquest into his death. Carl committed suicide in November 2017 after he was sacked from his cabinet post.
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How much will my claim cost?
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, or a coroner can ask for Legal Aid to be awarded for more complex cases which require legal representation.
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.
Find out more
An inquest is an investigation held in public at a Coroner’s Court to establish who has died, where they died, when they died and how they came to their death. It is important to stress that the inquest system has limitations and is not like a criminal trial. Therefore the Coroner’s role is not to apportion blame, and families should not expect them to do so.
The Coroner’s Office should provide a “Guide to Coroner Services” at the outset. A copy of this can be requested from Coroners@justic.gsi.gov.uk or by calling 020 3334 3555. An electronic copy may also be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-Coroner-services-and-Coroner-investigations-a-short-guide .
You could also telephone the Coroner’s officer. Further information is also available via the NHS Choices website http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Inquest/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Coroners investigate deaths that have been reported to them if:
Coroners are either solicitors or barristers, and/or qualified medical practitioners. Families ask many questions in advance of an inquest, so the information below is set out to be helpful and informative.
It should also help put people at ease should they find themselves needing to attend an inquest in the near future, as inquests are there to help grieving families find the answers they both want and need to understand what happened to their loved ones.
The majority of inquests are not before a jury but in certain cases they must be. A jury is necessary when the state had care of the individual prior to their death, such as in prison or police custody. The Coroner’s office will advise if the inquest will be before a jury, but there role again is only to confirm who has died and how, and not to apportion any blame.
Whilst a jury may be mandatory in the above circumstances, a Coroner may chose to appoint a jury in other circumstances, as he/she deems fit.
Family members are asked if they wish to attend and can choose not to, but the family are very much at the heart of the inquest process.
Inquest hearings are held in public and therefore anyone may attend.
This means that members of the press may choose to attend also, so be prepared for that possibility. The press may want to speak to family members afterwards, something we at Hudgell Solicitors always make our clients aware of and prepared for, often helping them prepare statements when they have something to say that they wish to be reported in the media.
Some bereaved friends and family chose not to attend.
- Liaise with the Coroners officer and make sure you are notified of developments.
- Ask for the Inquest file so that you have seen medical records, Post Mortem, Medical reports and witness statements before the Inquest.
- Consider if you think you will want to be represented and seek advice from an experienced law firm.
- You may wish to let the Coroner’s office know what questions you want to be asked of any witnesses at the Inquest, so either the Coroner or your representative can put them to the witness during the Inquest hearing.
Witnesses chosen by the Coroner will give evidence. Prior to the inquest the witnesses will have provided written statements and the Coroner will take each witness through their statements and ask questions relevant to determining cause of death.
An Interested Person (defined in section 47(2) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009) can also ask questions at the inquest and will be invited by the Coroner to do so.
These questions will be limited to those that are relevant to determining the cause of death or the circumstances of the death. If you have legal representation at the inquest then they will review the statements and also ask questions, where relevant, on your behalf.
A post mortem examination is a medical examination of a body after death to investigate the cause of death. A Coroner’s post-mortem examination is independent and carried out by a suitable medical professional.
A Coroner decides whether a post mortem is needed. The Coroner is not required by law to obtain consent to the examination but where possible the Coroner will take into account any religious or cultural views. Some families ask for an MRI scan rather than a post mortem on religious grounds and the Coroner must take these requests into account but not necessarily pay the additional cost.
Should you have any questions or wish to raise any concerns then inquest solicitors would recommend that you contact the Coroner’s office.
The medical professional, often a pathologist, who carries out this examination will prepare a report and will attend the inquest to read the same.
Those attending the inquest may leave the court whilst this evidence is being read as it can be distressing.
The Hudgell Promise
When we take on any case, we want you to feel reassured and confident in every aspect of your claim. That’s why we offer a service that puts your needs over and above anything else.