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Clinical Negligence

Inquest / Fatalities

Inquest / Fatalities

We understand that dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, especially if this may have been caused by their medical care. You might be asked to attend an Inquest to try and find out how the deceased died, which can be a daunting prospect.

It is important you have the benefit of legal representation at the Inquest. We can help answer any questions and offer advice. We can often represent you at no cost if we also act for you in a clinical negligence claim in the same matter.

To give you an idea of what happens at an Inquest, you might find the following information helpful.

An Inquest is an investigation into the death of an individual where it is reasonable to suspect that the person has died:

  • A violent or unnatural death; or
  • A sudden death of which the cause is unknown; or
  • In Prison; or
  • In such place or in such circumstances as to require an Inquest in pursuance of any Act.

The Coroner is the person responsible for the Inquest procedure and he is an independent Judicial Officer. Although no absolute obligation is placed upon the Coroner, usually he will request that a post-mortem takes place. A post-mortem report is often helpful during the early stages of investigation into a clinical negligence claim.

The Purpose of the Inquest

The strict purpose of the Inquest is limited to finding:

  • Who the deceased was;
  • How, when, and were the deceased came by their death;
  • The particulars required by the Registration Act to be registered concerning death.

As the purpose of the Inquest is to confirm the above, the Coroner will always limit questions concerned with civil liability, such as a clinical negligence claim. However, with careful questioning it is often possible to obtain very helpful evidence to support a subsequent clinical negligence claim.

At the end of the inquest the Coroner will give a verdict. Where a standard short-form verdict is not sufficient in the Coroner’s mind, the Coroner may choose to give a narrative verdict which explains the circumstances which led to the deceased’s death, as found at the inquest.

We regularly attend Inquests on behalf of families, to make sure that the questions of the family are addressed at the Inquest and important evidence obtained. If you require legal representation at the inquest into the death of a friend or relative, contact us for advice and help.

Procedure at the Inquest

The inquest is formally opened without any significant evidence being given and the formalities are carried out by the Coroner sitting alone. Evidence will be called concerning the death at the resumed full hearing, with representatives (which may include lawyers) attending. The majority of evidence at the resumed Inquest will usually be given orally by a witness on oath. The actual order of calling the witnesses lies entirely with the discretion of the Coroner.

The Coroner will normally then examine each witness so that the evidence is heard in the same order as the events leading to the death. Once the Coroner has dealt with the witnesses, each interested party will be allowed to question them.

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