When an inquest might be necessary
In most cases the death of someone who has been receiving medical treatment can simply be certified by a medical professional. However there are circumstances when a Coroner may need to become involved and will open inquest proceedings. This is usually because a person has died suddenly, unexpectedly or in unexplained circumstances. These circumstances may be related to the medical treatment the deceased was receiving. It is only when this process has taken place that the death can be formally certified and a death certificate issued.
What is an inquest?
An inquest is an investigation led by a Coroner – it is not adversarial like most court proceedings. The process is factual. aim of the inquest is to ascertain:
- The name of the deceased
- The place of death
- The date and time of death
- How the death occurred
What happens at an inquest?
The majority of inquests are held in public where anyone can attend, including local journalists. At the inquest hearing itself, witnesses may be asked to provide written statements which will be read out at the hearing and in some circumstances witnesses will need to attend court to give evidence in person. The investigative nature of an inquest provides an opportunity for questions to be asked by the coroner and any other interested parties.
Do I need to appoint a lawyer where medical negligence is suspected?
Legal representation is not always required at an inquest and you can represent yourself. However, in our experience of dealing with deaths associated with medical treatment, it is often advisable to seek representation especially when a medical negligence claim is being contemplated.
The NHS Trust or care provider is likely to attend with their own legal representatives who will have a great deal of experience of attending inquests. So people often wish to ensure there is a level playing field by instructing their own experienced lawyer.
Families can find inquest proceedings to be overwhelming, particularly during a time of personal grief, stress and uncertainty. Again, appointing a lawyer to guide you through the process can be beneficial.
How we can help at an inquest where medical negligence is suspected
We will liaise directly with the Coroner and their officers and obtain all the evidence. This will be reviewed and we will determine whether any further witness evidence is required.
We will attend any pre-inquest reviews as well as the inquest itself, either with you or on your behalf to ensure that all relevant questions are asked, both from a legal perspective (should we anticipate there may be a resulting clinical negligence claim) and from a personal point of view, should there be any particular questions you may want answering to help put matters to rest.
If a clinical negligence claim arises after the inquest proceedings, we can use the information gathered during the inquest process to support that claim.
Funding legal representation at an inquest where medical negligence is suspected
Funding legal representation is often seen as a barrier to instructing a Solicitor. We do not believe that this should be the case. There are various options available, from paying privately on an hourly rate to a Conditional Fee Agreement (“no win, no fee”) in some circumstances.
It is often the case that we can represent you at an inquest on a ‘deferred basis’ if it is likely that a clinical negligence claim may follow, at which point the costs of representation may be recovered as part of that claim.
We are always happy to discuss funding with you to identify the best way forward.
If you are required to attend an inquest where medical negligence is suspected then call our free legal helpline for initial guidance and details of your funding options. Phone 0808 1391606 or email us at [email protected]