What is an Inquest?
The coroner will hold an inquest to establish the cause of an unexpected death (in cases where the death is unnatural or where the cause is unknown).
The coroner is in charge of the hearing and will call witnesses to give evidence and ask them to answer questions. Families and their legal representatives also have the opportunity to ask the witnesses questions. At the end of an inquest the Coroner will make findings as to what caused the death.
Although the Coroner does not say who is ‘at fault’, any verdict might be useful in a subsequent compensation claim - it might confirm a medical issue, or it may shed some light on facts surrounding the death that may not have surfaced otherwise.
What happens before, during and after the Inquest?
First, why an inquest?
In England and Wales the Coroner will hold an Inquest when he is notified of a death that was violent or unnatural or, in the case of a sudden death, where the cause is unknown.
The Coroner will not investigate all deaths. However death resulting from an industrial disease such as the asbestos cancer mesothelioma is deemed “unnatural” and in most cases the Coroner will begin (“open”) an Inquest of his own accord.
Sometimes the Coroner and the family will disagree as to whether an Inquest should be opened. In some cases it is possible to challenge a Coroner’s decision not to hold an Inquest. The family may be able to influence the question that the coroner asks or the evidence that he calls for. This is where legal representation can be very helpful.
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