Medical negligence inquests
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Inquests and medical negligence
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 will call for an inquest to be held. This is usually because a person has died suddenly, unexpectedly or in unexplained circumstances. These circumstances may be related to the medical treatment they were receiving or it is suspected that the death could be due to medical negligence. Only when the inquest has taken place can 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 and focuses on establishing the following facts:
- The name of the deceased;
- The place of death;
- The date and time of death; and
- 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 witnesses may be asked to provide written statements which will be read out. 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, including lawyers.
Do I need to appoint a lawyer to attend an inquest where medical negligence is suspected?
Legal representation is not always required at an inquest and you can represent yourself if you wish. However, in our experience of dealing with deaths associated with medical treatment, it is usually advisable to arrange representation by a specialist lawyer 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. Understandably, people often wish to ensure there is a level playing field by arranging for an experienced lawyer to attend on their behalf.
Families can find inquests 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
Our lawyers are experienced in attending inquests. To give you an idea of what we can do you can read about a high profile maternity death inquest we attended here.
If you decide to appoint us then we will liaise directly with the coroner and obtain all the evidence in advance of the inquest. This will then be considered by our expert lawyers to 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 (in anticipation of a medical negligence compensation claim being made) and from a personal point of view (should there be any particular questions you want answering for your own peace of mind).
We can use the information gathered during the inquest process to support the subsequent compensation claim.
Funding legal costs for a medical negligence inquest
Funding legal costs can can often present a barrier to instructing a solicitor to attend an inquest. We do not believe that this should be the case and we therefore work on a no win, no fee basis where there are good prospects of a medical negligence claim succeeding.
We are always happy to discuss funding with you to identify the best way forward and will assess whether we are able to attend an inquest on a no win, no fee basis completely free of charge.
If your loved one has passed away in circumstances where medical negligence isn suspected and an inquest has been arranged then call our free legal helpline for initial guidance and details of your funding options. Phone 0333 888 0404 or email us at [email protected]