Fatal Medical Negligence Claims and Inquests

What is a Coroner’s Inquest?

An inquest is a formal investigation conducted by a Coroner to ascertain how somebody died.  Inquests are only held in certain circumstances, for example where the death was sudden and unexpected, where the cause is unknown, where someone has died an unnatural or violent death, or where someone has died whilst in custody or while detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. 

The purpose of an inquest is to answer four statutory questions:

  • The identity of the deceased;
  • When they died;
  • Where they died; and
  • How they came about their death.

The information which comes to light during an inquest may be used to prevent future deaths.

What happens during an inquest?

The Coroner will usually arrange for a post mortem to be performed before the body of the deceased can be released to the family for the funeral.  The pathologist who performs the post mortem will prepare a written report to the Coroner of their findings regarding the medical cause of death.

The Coroner may wish to hold one or more pre-inquest review (PIR) hearings in advance of the final hearing.  The purpose of the PIR is to determine issues which may have an impact on how the hearing is held, for example which witnesses need to attend Court and whether any further witness statements or other documents such as medical records need to be obtained. 

Can a Coroner’s Inquest determine medical negligence?

The inquest is an inquisitorial process rather than an adversarial one. The Coroner’s role is to investigate the facts and they have no power to apportion civil or criminal liability. 

During the hearing, the Coroner will call witnesses to give evidence.  The Coroner, and anyone else deemed to have a proper interest in the proceedings (‘interested persons’), will have the opportunity to ask questions of the witnesses.  Some witnesses will not have to attend in person, if the Coroner is satisfied that their witness statement is uncontroversial. 

Once the Coroner has heard all the evidence, they must reach a conclusion.  Possible conclusions include:

  • accident or misadventure (the unintended consequence of an intentional act)
  • alcohol/drug related
  • industrial disease
  • lawful killing
  • unlawful killing
  • natural causes
  • open conclusion
  • road traffic collision
  • stillbirth
  • suicide

The Coroner may choose to return a narrative conclusion - a paragraph which factually describes the circumstances of the death. Narratives cannot name any individuals or use words or phrases which apportion civil or criminal liability but they can be used to make wider comments on any failings or issues which have been raised during the inquest.

How to claim compensation for fatal medical negligence?

Losing a loved one in unusual or uncertain circumstances is incredibly distressing.  Our team of specialist solicitors can guide you through this daunting time and help you to determine the facts of the death.  We are experts at representing families in civil claims where there has been a death and an inquest is to be held. 

Sometimes the inquest process will reveal that the deceased person died as a result of negligent medical treatment.  If so, we could help you to pursue a claim for compensation to assist with the financial burden of losing a loved one. 

We offer a range of funding options including fixed fees or conditional fee agreements (no win no fee). 

To find out more abut how we can help you, please can us on  0800 84 94 101

I cannot fault the care and attention given by Gail Waller during the difficult time from my son's death to his inquest. She was unceasingly helpful, professional and supportive.” 

Daryl Skeggs


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Medical Negligence

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