Do you need a lawyer at a hospital death inquest?
If someone close to you dies while in hospital or as a result of medical treatment, an inquest may be required to formally establish how the death occurred.
An inquest does not determine if anyone is to blame for the death. However, information is often disclosed during the inquest process which can assist in assessing whether the death was avoidable. So if legal proceedings for clinical negligence are being contemplated an inquest can present a unique opportunity to establish the key facts of the case and the evidence available.
Inquests also play vital role in highlighting shortcomings in the health care, enabling preventative measures to be put in place to reduce the chance of further deaths occurring.
When families who have lost a loved one approach us for advice they often ask if it is necessary for them to have professional legal representation at the inquest.
This is a highly personal choice. It is not essential for the family to appoint their own lawyer and some family members feel comfortable handling matters themselves.
One of the key considerations is whether you think someone was to blame for the death. If you do, then it is often best to speak to a lawyer. If appropriate they can represent you at the inquest or alternatively give you guidance on what questions should be asked during the hearing.
If you are planning to bring a civil claim for compensation then valuable information can be obtained during the inquest process, so it is an opportunity that should be maximised. An experienced lawyer who is totally familiar with inquest law and practice may be best placed to ensure that the right questions are asked.
The other point to consider is whether the organisation or individual responsible for the death will be sending legal representatives to attend the inquest hearing. In our experience, NHS Hospital Trusts will always instruct lawyers to represent them at inquests. These lawyers are often experts on inquests and coronial law, which can put family members at a disadvantage if they do not have an independent specialist lawyer of their own.
We appreciate that following the death of a loved one, the last thing many people want to deal with is a formal legal investigation into the death itself. So having an experienced lawyer by your side may help remove the burden from your shoulders and ensure the process runs smoothly.
Clinical negligence lawyer and AvMA panelist, Oliver Thorne, has extensive experience of attending inquests on behalf of his clients. His expertise enables him to pinpoint questions to the Coroner with the objective of obtaining as much information about the circumstances of the death as possible.
Furthermore, as an experienced clinical negligence lawyer, Oliver knows what documentation and information needs to be obtained from the inquest in order to determine whether the death was caused as a result of negligence and whether there may be a compensation claim to pursue.
You can read about several high profile inquests that Oliver has dealt with on this website. This includes the inquest into the death of four-day-old Freddie Barnett, and an inquest into the death of Maddy Lawrence, both of which were reported on by the BBC. Oliver has also written an article on whether you need a lawyer to attend an inquest on your behalf, which you can read here.
If you would like to speak to Oliver about a hospital death inquest contact him now on 0333 888 0404 or by email at [email protected]