When does a Coroner’s Inquest take place?
When someone dies a violent, sudden, or unnatural death or if they have died whilst in police custody there is likely to be an investigation into the death.
If someone has died of a disease that might be related to asbestos this could be an ‘unnatural death’ so an investigation or ‘inquest ‘ will be needed.
The inquest is completed by a ‘Coroner’, whose job it is to find out why a person has died from an unnatural cause. The Coroner’s job is not to find fault with a person or party.
The death is usually reported to the Coroner by the medical staff who were treating the person who has died, although other people can report the death if they are concerned.
- Death reported to Coroner if violent, sudden, unnatural or in police custody
- A death related to asbestos is unnatural
- An interim death certificate is issued to the next of kin
- The Coroner and the Coroner’s Officer will collect information and documents
- A post- mortem examination of the body might be necessary
- Lung tissue samples might be taken – you should ask for these to be kept
- The funeral can then take place
- There may be a hearing where the family have the right to attend and ask questions. We solicitors often represent families for free at inquests. Please contact us for more information
- The Coroner will then give a verdict on why the person died
- The final death certificate is issued
What is the Investigation?
The Coroner is assisted by a ‘Coroner’s Officer’. The Coroner’s Officer will help the Coroner collect information and documents that help the Coroner decide why the person died. Occasionally the Coroner’s Officer would like to speak to the family or close friends as they often know important information. If this is the case the Coroner’s Officer may visit the family or friends at home. Sometimes the Coroner’s Officer also a Police Officer so might wear a police uniform. This is something that you should not be concerned about as the Coroner’s Inquest is not a police investigation.
On occasion the family or close friends can be asked to formally identify the body. If you do not wish to do this alternative arrangements can usually be made.
If the cause of death is not completely clear the Coroner can ask a Pathologist to examine the body. This is called a ‘post- mortem examination’. In some cases samples can be taken for testing. The Coroner should then ask you what you would like to happen to the samples after testing. In an asbestos case it is a good idea to ask the Coroner to arrange for the samples to be kept, as they might be vital evidence in a claim for compensation in the civil courts.
It is important that tissue samples are retained and examined where there is any suggestion of an asbestos related disease. If samples are not taken and later retained cases have been challenged at court successfully.
Will a Court Hearing be needed?
After all the information is collected by the Coroner or his/her Officer the Coroner will decide if there needs to be a hearing. If no hearing is needed the Coroner will record the cause of death and the final death certificate can be applied for.
If a hearing is to go ahead it is very different to a court hearing you might have seen on the TV. The Coroner is specially trained to deal with grieving family and friends and the process is designed to be as least intimidating as possible. If you feel you need some support please see below for contact details.
The family will have the right to ask questions of any witness who might be giving evidence including the medical experts if they want to.
In complicated cases or where a claim for compensation may arise it is often a good idea to ask a solicitor to represent you and ask the questions on your behalf. We solicitors llp often act for bereaved families on a free of charge or no win no fee basis. If you would like to speak to us about this please call 0800 294 3065