On the day of the inquest the family will usually be assisted with practicalities by the Coroner’s officer. There is also often a family liaison volunteer at the Coroner’s court. It will be the role of both the Coroner’s officer and the family liaison volunteer to help the family understand exactly what happens and when. The officer/volunteer will help them with where to sit, when to speak, when not to speak etc. as this will often be the first time that a family have been in a courtroom.
The length of an inquest can vary significantly depending on the individual circumstances of the case: some may only last an hour, in which case, it is unlikely that a family will be represented by a solicitor; some can last 2 or 3 days or more.
The details that will be discussed at the inquest can be quite graphic and may be quite harrowing for a family to hear or see. A post-mortem is usually carried out for the Coroner’s benefit as part of the investigation and this will usually be discussed at the inquest. The family of the deceased will not automatically be sent a copy of the post-mortem report before the inquest but can request that the Coroner send them a copy.
The Coroner calls witnesses to give evidence and will question a witness themselves, talking them through any statement that they might have made – although these are sometimes taken as read. There will be an opportunity, usually first, for the family or their legal representatives to ask questions too.
When a death has occurred in a hospital or a mental health facility it is usual for these institutions or their insurers to also have legal representation as they will be the potential defendants in a subsequent clinical negligence claim. However there are no hard and fast rules; it will very much depend on the individual Coroner in charge on the day of the inquest.
An inquest is a public hearing which means that anyone can attend, and the press do keep an eye on the list of cases scheduled for Court. If they think a case is interesting enough a reporter from the local paper will probably attend. We don’t want families to be surprised by this on the day when the press arrive so we do spend time beforehand helping them to be fully prepared.
Some families want press attention and some do not. Whatever the case, we make sure that we find out before the inquest takes place and help the families manage the possible enquiries they may receive in the way in which they want them to be handled.
To help you understand whether a claim may be possible and to explain the steps in the process the Clinical Negligence team at TSP have put together a comprehensive guide to Medical Negligence claims.
In the guide you will find detailed information about the different types of Medical Negligence claim and what to do if you believe you or a family member have been a victim of Medical Negligence. The guide also provides useful information about the steps in the Claim Process and the different funding options available.