Do I Need Legal Representation at a Coroner’s Inquest?
20 August 2019
While you can attend a coroner's inquest without legal representation, a Coroner and Inquest Solicitor can help to ensure that all relevant information is brought to the coroner's attention and that, subsequently, the correct conclusion is reached on the day.
A Coroner and Inquest Solicitor will liaise with the coroner on your behalf in the run up to the inquest and conduct a thorough review of documentation in advance of the inquest. At Co-op Legal Services, we ensure that every client is represented by a barrister at the inquest. The barrister will ask questions of the witnesses, talk to the coroner on your behalf and support you through the day.
Coroner's Inquests Explained
In the UK, around 45% of all deaths are referred to the coroner, whose role it is to establish how, when and where the death happened. In many cases, the coroner will be able to determine these facts by carrying out investigatory work or conducting a post mortem. In some instances, however, they will decide that an inquest needs to be held to establish these details.
A coroner's inquest is a legal investigation that is carried out by the coroner to establish the facts of the death, and this may involve an inquest hearing. The inquest hearing is a Court hearing during which evidence will be examined and witnesses may be questioned.
Inquest hearings are public, meaning anyone can attend, but only people with a 'proper interest' will be able to take an active role in the hearing (including questioning witnesses). Those with a proper interest include:
The deceased's parent, spouse, civil partner or child and their legal representativesAnyone who the coroner believes could have contributed to the death (either accidentally or otherwise) and their legal representatives
How a Solicitor Can Help during a Coroner's Inquest
A coroner's inquest can seem daunting, but providing you're fully prepared for it and have a clear understanding of exactly what to expect on the day, there's no reason why it should be. This is where a Coroner and Inquest Solicitor can help.
In advance of the inquest hearing date, the Coroner and Inquest Solicitor can liaise with the coroner to establish some key details, such as:
- What evidence will be reviewed
- Who will be called upon as a witness (either in person or via a written statement)
- Whether an independent medical expert (or other subject matter expert) should be instructed
- How long the inquest hearing is expected to last
The Solicitor can review all available documentation in advance of the inquest hearing and if they feel that anything at all has been missed, this can be flagged up to the coroner. They can also highlight if any additional witnesses should be called upon, or if the inquest should be listed for a longer period of time.
Once all of the relevant evidence has been collated, the Coroner and Inquest Solicitor can conduct a thorough review of this. Written witness statements can be examined in advance of the inquest hearing date, along with medical records and any other significant documentation.
By reviewing this information in advance, the Solicitor can identify any discrepancies, prepare questions for witnesses and thoroughly familiarise themselves with the circumstances surrounding the death.
On the day of the inquest hearing the Coroner and Inquest Solicitor or a barrister instructed by them will take the reins, talking you through exactly what to expect and providing legal advice and support. The barrister will question the witnesses and make submissions to the coroner about the appropriate verdict the coroner should reach.
Once all available evidence has been reviewed and witnesses have been questioned, the coroner will reach a conclusion as to how, when and where the death occurred.
Fatal Accident Claims
The coroner will not apportion blame, but if they find that the death has been caused as a result of the actions or negligence of another person, this may lead to a Fatal Accident Claim for compensation.
A Fatal Accident Claim will be carried out completely independently of the coroner's inquest, and our Personal Injury Solicitors and Medical Negligence Solicitors can also assist you with this and handle the Fatal Accident Claim on your behalf. We are able to deal with most Fatal Accident Claims on a no win no fee basis.