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What Happens when a Death is Reported to the Coroner?

7th February 2019

When a death is reported to the coroner, the coroner will establish who has died as well as where, when and how the death occurred. If the cause of death is unclear, then they will hold a post-mortem. Following the post-mortem, the coroner may decide to hold an inquest into the death.

For coroner & inquest advice call our No Win No Fee Solicitors on 0330 606 9587 or contact us online and we will call you.

If the evidence heard during the Inquest suggests that the death has been caused by the actions or negligence of another person then it may be possible for the family to make a claim for compensation on behalf of the deceased. Our Coroner and Inquest Solicitors can provide specialist guidance and legal advice in these circumstances.

For example, if the death was caused by the actions of a medical practitioner then this could be grounds for a Medical Negligence Claim. If the person died in a road accident that was caused by another driver, then the Estate could be entitled to make a Personal Injury Claim.

Other examples include when a person has died at work because of the actions or negligence of their employer, or when they have died as a result of an industrial disease.

When is a Death Reported to the Coroner?

Although it may sound alarming when you hear that a death has been referred to the coroner, it's actually very common, with 45% of all deaths being referred. There are a number of reasons why this may happen.

Reasons include:

  • The death was sudden and unexplained
  • The cause of death is unknown
  • The deceased wasn't seen by a medical practitioner during their final illness
  • There's no medical certificate available
  • If there is a medical certificate, the doctor who signed this didn't see the deceased within 14 days before or after their death
  • The cause of death is violent or unnatural
  • The person died during an operation while they were under general anaesthetic
  • The medical certificate suggests that an industrial disease or industrial poisoning may have caused the death

Once a death has been reported to the coroner, a set process will be followed.

Step 1

The coroner will decide whether a post-mortem is needed to establish the cause of death.

If the cause of death is clear and no post-mortem is needed, then the doctor will sign a medical certificate which can then be taken to the registrar. The coroner will also issue a certificate to the registrar confirming that no post-mortem is needed. The body will then be released for the funeral to take place.

If a post-mortem is needed then this will be held either in a hospital or a mortuary. The family of the deceased cannot object to the post-mortem, but they can request details of where and when this will take place.

Step 2

If a post-mortem has been carried out, the coroner will then decide whether to hold an inquest into the death. The purpose of the inquest is to establish the circumstances surrounding the death, including where and how it happened.

The coroner must hold an inquest into the death if:

  • The cause of death is still unknown after the post-mortem
  • The death may have been violent or unnatural
  • The death occurred while the person was in prison or police custody

Step 3

If the coroner decides that it's necessary to hold an inquest into the death, then this will be opened soon after the death. During the inquest, the coroner will select witnesses to give evidence. Some relatives and those acting on behalf of the deceased (such as a Coroner and Inquest Solicitor) are also entitled to question witnesses.

The death cannot be registered until after the inquest has taken place. However, the coroner can provide an interim death certificate which can be used to apply for the Grant of Probate and to notify organisations of the person's death.

When the inquest finishes, the coroner will come to a conclusion as to how, when and where the death occurred. They will prepare a legal statement which confirms these details.

For coroner & inquest advice call our No Win No Fee Solicitors on 0330 606 9587 or contact us online and we will call you.

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