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 passed away, 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 considered unnatural
- An interim death certificate is issued to the next of kin
- The Coroner and the Coroner’s Officer will collect information and documents. It may be necessary to carry out a postmortem examination of the body
- 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 the interests of client families free of charge 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 will 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 is also a Police Officer so might wear a police uniform and is not something to be concerned. 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 ‘postmortem examination’. In some cases tissue samples may 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.
Cases where samples have not been available have sometimes been successfully challenged at court.
Will a Court Hearing be needed?
After all the information is collected by the Coroner or their 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 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 our contact details below.
If they want to, family members will have the right to ask questions of any witness who might be giving evidence, including the medical experts.
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
“ Thank you to Steven [Evans] for his kindness, patience, efficiency and professionalism throughout this process. I didn’t think my dad would cope well with the requirements but Steven’s calm nature and knowledge made a fairly grim situation much easier to bear. We contacted other solicitors at the start of this process, and their hard-sell approach was dreadful – thank goodness for you and your team! ”