Inquest Questions

When death is reported to a Coroner what happens next?

A Coroner may hold an Inquest:

  • after a post-mortem examination
  • without a post-mortem if the deceased was known to have died from a previously diagnosed industrial disease e.g. Mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos dust.

A Coroner may decide not hold an Inquest if he accepts the cause of death by a doctor or following a post-mortem the cause of death does not demand that further investigations takes place.

How to find a Coroner

You can find a local Coroner by looking in the local telephone directory or online.

Can I challenge the Coroner’s verdict?

The verdicts and be reviewed by the High Court under procedural rules or by way of Judicial Review. There is a limited time to challenge a verdict so you must seek legal advice from our specialist Inquest and Fatal Accident Solicitors without delay otherwise you will lose the right of challenge.

How do I go about challenging the Coroner’s verdict?

There is only a limited time to make a challenge so you must seek legal advice from our specialist Inquest and Fatal Accident Solicitors without delay otherwise you will lose the right of challenge.

How long are the Coroner’s Records of the Case kept?

The records are kept for a period of about 15 years

Who can access the Coroner’s Records?

Usually the next of kin, a close relative of the deceased may be entitled to review the records of a past Inquest.

Post Mortems

What is a post-mortem?

This is where the cause of death is not readily known from the deceased own GP or hospital. A post mortem to find the cause of death will be necessary.This is undertaken by a specialist called a pathologist.

What if I do not want a post-mortem to be performed?

Unfortunately there is very little you can do. A Coroner has a duty to undertake a post-mortem where the cause of death is not readily ascertainable.

Who organises a post-mortem?

The Coroner will organise the removal of the body at the Coroner’s office expense.

Can I challenge the findings of the post-mortem?

Yes, but a second opinion will be at the your expense.

What about funeral arrangements?

Normally a post-mortem will not delay any funeral arrangements as they are often undertaken quickly. Occasionally there may be delays which cannot be avoided.

Organ Retention

The pathologist (the person who undertakes the post-mortem) to help establish the cause of death, from time to time, may have to remove organs from the deceased. The Coroner must be informed of this and how long the retention of the organs remains in the possession of the pathologist. The Coroner must then notify the family to keep them informed.

What about organ donations?

The wishes of the deceased about organ donation must be communicated to the GP/Hospital immediately. Providing the removal of organs do not impede the pathologist’s inquiry into the cause of death this should not cause any problems. A medical certificate must be issued first before the removal of organs.

When do I get the results of the post-mortem?

If you are legally represented your solicitors will ask for a copy on your behalf providing a fee is paid. Otherwise an interested party, usually the next of kin can apply for a copy.

When do I get a death certificate?

This depends upon whether a post-mortem is carried out and an Inquest held. If a post-mortem was undertaken and an inquest held, the Coroner may issue an interim death certificate so that the family can deal with the deceased financial affairs. A final death certificate will only be issued once the Inquest has been concluded.
If the Coroner following a post-mortem decides not to hold a Inquest or if no post-mortem is held and the Coroner accepts the cause of death by a doctor, a death certificate can be issued to the register of death within 1-2 working days of being notified.
Practical considerations if someone dies suddenly

  1. Contact your GP and/or the local police immediately – the coroner will then become informed.
  2. Ask your GP or the police when you call if you should move the body. Sometimes it is important not to move the body as this can lead to clues as to the cause of death and/or contaminate evidence.
  3. Just because the police are involved does not necessarily mean that the cause of death is suspicious so do not worry.
  4. If you wish to move the body out of England & Wales to arrange a funeral you must ask the Coroner for permission first.
  5. If the deceased suddenly died in hospital, the Coroner may arrange for the post-mortem to be undertaken by a pathologist, other than one employed by the hospital who was looking after the deceased. You can ask the Coroner not to use the local pathologist which the Coroner may grant providing there is no undue delay.
  6. Seek free help and advice from R James Hutcheon Solicitors email: info@hutcheonlaw.co.uk or call 0800 011 2757 if the cause of death is due to a road accident, accident at work, death caused by neglect or exposure to asbestos we can work for you free of charge including attending the Inquest.

Inquests

When will the Inquest be held?

Enquires into the cause of death are usually arranged and concluded within 3 – 6 months. It can take longer in more complex or high profile cases, an instant example is the Inquest of Diana, Princess of Wales & Mr Dodi Al Fayed.

What happens if criminal proceedings are also brought?

The defendant charged with murder or manslaughter, ‘child destruction’ (killing a foetus after 28 weeks), causing death by reckless driving or taking part in another person’s suicide, the inquest is postponed until the defendant’s trial is over. Before adjourning, the coroner finds out who the deceased was and how the deceased died.

After the criminal trial the Coroner may resume the Inquest if deemed appropriate.

What happens if I also want to claim compensation?

Any court action for compensation will usually follow after the Inquest has been held when all the facts of the case has been determined. You do not normally need to instruct a solicitor at the Inquest, but we would always recommend that you consult a specialist Inquest and Fatal Accident Solicitor to discuss your options. It is usually very helpful that a Solicitor is present at the inquest if there is a possibility that a subsequent claim for compensation or legal action is to be made. By attending an Inquest this will give your Solicitors first hand appreciation of the witness giving evidence and better able to assess the strength of any subsequent action.
If the cause of death is due to a road accident, accident at work, death caused by neglect or exposure to asbestos we can work for you free of charge including attending the Inquest if we feel there is a strong case.

Do I have to attend an Inquest?

This will depend on whether you are an important witness to the investigations. Unless you are served with a summons to attend the Inquest you are not required. If you are summoned and fail to attend you can be fined or imprisoned.

I want to give evidence, can I attend an Inquest?

Normally you can if you are a close relative and/or you feel you might have something relevant about the deceased’s cause of death or simply to confirm personal details about the deceased.
The coroner decides who to ask and the order in which they give evidence. A person who wants to give evidence should contact the coroner as soon as possible after the death.

Will there be a Jury at the Inquest?

A jury Inquest is quite rare as the majority of Inquests are held by the Coroner alone. A jury is there to determine the facts of the case as opposed to the function of a Coroner who will decide upon matters of law.

When is a Jury at an Inquest?

Jury Inquests are quite rare. Currently the most famous Jury Inquest is that held in 2008 to inquire into the cause of death of Diana, Princess of Wales. A Jury Inquest will normally be held where:

  • the death occurred in circumstances which may affect the health or safety of the public;
  • the person died in prison;
  • the death was caused by an occurrence that needs to be reported to a Government department;
  • the coroner thinks it is necessary to have a jury.

Do I need a Solicitor at the Inquest?

You do not normally need to instruct a solicitor but we would always recommend that you consult a specialist Inquest and Fatal Accident Solicitor to discuss your options. It is usually very helpful that a Solicitor is present at the inquest if there is a possibility that a subsequent claim for compensation or legal action is to be made. By attending an Inquest this will give your Solicitors first hand appreciation of the witness giving evidence and better able to assess the strength of any subsequent action.
If the cause of death is due to a road accident, accident at work, death caused by neglect or exposure to asbestos we can work for you free of charge including attending the Inquest if we feel there is a strong case.

What are the Verdicts of the Inquest?

  • natural causes
  • accident
  • suicide
  • unlawful or lawful killing
  • Industrial disease
  • open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any other verdict)

Can I challenge the Verdict of the Inquest?


Yes, by taking immediate action to the High Court to ask the Judge to review the verdict. This is a specialist procedure and you are strongly advised to seek legal advice from Specialist Inquest and Fatal Accident Solicitors immediately as there is only a limited period of time to quash the verdict.

Is the Inquest private to the family?

No. All inquests are held in public. Journalists may attend especially if it is “news worthy” material and be published in the daily or local papers depending on the public interest and importance. Suicide notes and personal letters will not be read out unless they have to be, but although every attempt is made to avoid any upset to people’s private lives, sometimes, in the interests of justice, it may be unavoidable.

Can a funeral be held before the Inquest is finished?


In most cases the answer is yes, but delays can arise if someone has been charged with an offence of causing the death.

Can a death certificate be available before the Inquest is concluded?

Not normally. The coroner may provide an interim certificate however of the fact of death so as to assist the next of kin pending the Inquest to manage the deceased financial affairs.

Posted: July 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm


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