Purpose of Inquests
The purpose of an inquest, which is an official public enquiry and is presided over by a Coroner, is to identify the deceased and determine the place and cause of death. An inquest hears witnesses who may be required by law to attend but does not apportion blame for the death and has a limited number of verdicts which include accidental death, misadventure, suicide, open verdict natural causes and unlawful killing.
An inquest does not normally take place to explain the cause of death except in the following cases which may be heard with a jury:
- murder/ manslaughter
- infant death
- death in prison
- accident poisoning disease
- road traffic accidents.
Any person who has a genuine or proper interest in the inquest can give evidence or ask questions of a witness or be legally represented by a Solicitor or Counsel. Those most likely to wish to make enquiries of witnesses include close family and next of kin, personal representatives of the estate of the deceased, representatives of the place where the deceased was resident at the time of death which may include a hospital or other institution.
Our specialist medical negligence Solicitors are often called upon to represent the family of a deceased at a Coroner’s inquest. The outcome of an inquest can have grave financial consequences for the next of kin especially if a verdict of the Coroner’s Court is suicide rather than accidental death. It is important that families are legally represented at an inquest as evidence may come out during the inquest process that your loved one may have died as a result of substandard medical treatment or through neglect. This information will assist in progressing a civil claim for damages.
The legal costs of attending an inquest can also be claimed as part of the civil proceedings and is recoverable if the case is successful.