It is very important to find a solicitor familiar with coroner's and inquest procedures
and you should confirm this when first contacting a solicitor. As with doctors, solicitors
specialise and personal injury (PI) lawyers are solicitors who specialise in the
civil law dealing with injury and bereavement claims. They are the solicitors most
likely to have expertise in coroner’s and inquest procedures, as well as their own
specialist area of civil law. These include clinical negligence, road deaths, and
deaths in custody, at work, in disasters and due to industrial disease.
At an inquest, anyone who may later be blamed for the death will usually be legally
represented and your solicitor should attend the hearing, because evidence given
at an inquest can be useful at later court hearings. Inquest records are not always
verbatim records and are often unsatisfactory. It is extremely difficult and stressful
for bereaved people to follow inquest hearings, ask questions and make notes.
Although legal aid is not normally available for inquests, some clinical negligence
and deaths in custody cases may qualify for it. Solicitors will often offer a free
initial consultation, at which you can find out about the costs involved and how
they may be met. Specialist charities (Section 25) can advise you on how to find
the right solicitor and how to deal with the different practical issues that arise
because of the manner in which a person died - for example, deaths in custody or
in prison; on the road; at work; in disasters; deaths in psychiatric hospitals or
alleged to be due to clinical negligence and suicide deaths - all present different
problems with the different investigating agencies involved.
If someone is charged with a criminal offence because of a death, a criminal lawyer
(the prosecutor) employed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will deal with the
criminal proceedings, on behalf of the Crown. You or your family can not be involved
in the proceedings unless called as a witness, but you should be kept informed of
what is happening in the case and the dates of any criminal court hearings. Your
solicitor can attend, but can not take part in these hearings, and you can also attend.
If you do, you will find it upsetting and difficult, but it is important to remember
not to comment to the press until all court hearings are over.
14 Negligence in carrying out diagnosis, treatment or procedures associated with
15 The specialist charities of ten have Helplines that are manned by people who
have been suddenly bereaved, or you can be put you in touch with other