Inquests: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) | Fieldfisher
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Inquests: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



For the families of those who have died in unnatural or unusual circumstances, inquests play a crucial role in uncovering the truth and providing closure. Johan Verbruggen delves into the intricacies of inquests, the role of an Inquest Solicitor and answers some frequently asked questions.

What is an Inquest?

An inquest is a fact-finding inquiry led by a coroner to establish the cause of death, how it occurred, and whether any factors contributed to it. Inquests are formal investigations conducted to determine the circumstances surrounding a person's death. In Ireland, these proceedings are governed by the Coroners Act 1962, as amended.

Unlike a criminal or civil trial, an inquest is not concerned with assigning blame or determining guilt; its primary purpose is to ascertain the facts surrounding the death. Inquests are typically held in cases where the cause of death is sudden, unnatural, or unknown.


The Role of a Solicitor at an Inquest

Solicitors play a crucial role in supporting individuals and families involved in the inquest process. Here are some key aspects of their role:

  • Legal Advice and Representation: Solicitors provide legal guidance to clients involved in an inquest, explaining their rights and responsibilities throughout the proceedings. They also offer representation, ensuring that their clients' interests are protected and their voices heard during the inquiry.
  • Preparation and Gathering Evidence: Before the inquest, solicitors work closely with their clients to gather relevant evidence, including medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions. Thorough preparation is essential to presenting a clear and comprehensive case during the inquiry.
  • Cross-Examination: During the inquest hearings, solicitors have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses called by the coroner or other parties involved. This involves asking questions to clarify or challenge evidence presented, with the aim of uncovering the truth surrounding the circumstances of the death.
  • Legal Representation for Interested Parties: Solicitors may represent various parties with a legitimate interest in the outcome of the inquest, including family members of the deceased, healthcare providers, or other relevant stakeholders. Their role is to ensure that the rights and interests of their clients are upheld throughout the proceedings.
  • Post-Inquest Advice and Assistance: Following the conclusion of the inquest, solicitors provide their clients with advice on any further legal actions that may be pursued based on the findings. This may include civil claims for compensation or seeking changes to prevent similar deaths in the future.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Who can request an inquest?

A: In Ireland, an inquest is typically initiated by a coroner following a report of a death. However, interested parties, such as family members or legal representatives, can also request an inquest if they believe it is necessary to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death.

Q: What happens during an inquest?

A: An inquest involves hearings where evidence related to the death is presented and examined. Witnesses may be called to testify, and legal representatives have the opportunity to cross-examine them. The coroner then considers the evidence before making findings regarding the cause and circumstances of death.

Q: Do I need a solicitor for an inquest?

A: While it is not mandatory to have legal representation at an inquest, having a solicitor can provide invaluable support and expertise throughout the process. Solicitors can help ensure that your rights are protected, and your interests are represented effectively during the inquiry.

Q: How long does an inquest take?

A: The duration of an inquest can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses involved. Some inquests may be concluded within a days; while others may take several days or weeks to complete.

Q: What happens after the conclusion of an inquest?

A: Following the conclusion of an inquest, the coroner issues a formal written verdict which is a determination regarding the cause and circumstances of death. Depending on the outcome, further legal actions, such as a court case, may be pursued.

Q: Can I challenge the findings of an inquest?

A: Yes, in certain circumstances, it is possible to challenge the findings of an inquest through judicial review proceedings. This typically involves demonstrating that the coroner's decision was legally flawed or that there was a significant error in the conduct of the inquiry.

Q: What is the difference between an inquest and a trial?

A: While both may involve investigations into deaths, there are significant differences between an inquest and a criminal trial. Inquests focus on determining the cause and circumstances of death, without assigning blame or determining guilt. Criminal trials, on the other hand, involve the prosecution of individuals accused of committing a crime, with the aim of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Q: Can I receive legal aid for representation at an inquest?

A: In some cases, individuals may be eligible for legal aid to cover the costs of legal representation at an inquest. Eligibility criteria vary, and it is advisable to consult with one of our Inquest Solicitors or legal aid agency to determine whether you qualify for assistance.

Q: What happens if new evidence emerges after the conclusion of an inquest?

A: If new evidence comes to light after the conclusion of an inquest, it may be possible to reopen the inquiry or pursue further legal action, such as an appeal or judicial review. The process for considering new evidence will depend on the specific circumstances.

Q: What should I expect during my first meeting with a solicitor for an inquest case?

A: During your initial consultation with our Inquest Solicitor, you can expect to discuss the circumstances of the death, your concerns and questions about the inquest process, and any relevant documents or evidence you have. Our Inquest Solicitor will assess your case, explain your legal rights and options, and provide guidance on how they can assist you throughout the inquest proceedings.

Q: Can a solicitor help me prepare for giving evidence at an inquest?

A: Yes, solicitors can provide guidance and support to clients who are required to give evidence at an inquest. They can help you understand what to expect, prepare you for questioning, and ensure that your testimony accurately reflects your perspective and experiences related to the death.

Q: How much does it cost to hire a solicitor for representation at an inquest?

A: The cost of hiring a solicitor for representation at an inquest can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, and the amount of work involved. It's important to discuss fees and payment arrangements with our Inquest Solicitor at the first consultation.

Q: Can I attend the inquest hearings if I'm not directly involved in the case?

A: In most cases, inquest hearings are open to the public, so you may be able to attend as an observer even if you're not directly involved in the case. It's advisable to check with the coroner's office or the relevant court for information on attending inquest hearings.

Written by Johan Verbruggen.