Inquests are one of the few formal public inquisitorial processes remaining within the English and Welsh legal system. That inquests are not a trial conducted by the parties, but a fact-finding investigation by the Coroner, means they have particular rules and procedures that are often very unfamiliar to those lawyers more used to proceedings within the common law of torts or the criminal justice system.
Working within a non-accusatorial system requires particular knowledge to navigate the peculiar practices and procedures of the Coroners Courts. The Personal Injury practitioner will need to be alive to the fact that the inquest is often the forum where the documentary evidence relevant to a fatal incident is first disclosed, where witnesses statements are produced and where witnesses’ contemporaneous accounts are first tested under examination. That this procedure is invariably conducted in public can also give rise to significant reputational concerns for individuals and corporate bodies who have been implicated in the death, even where criminal charges are unlikely to follow. The serious personal, professional and financial consequences that can follow on from inquest findings of shortcomings by an individual or an organisation makes it all the more important that legal advisers are aware at this early (often pre-litigation) stage of how best to represent clients in the Coroner’s Court.
This book provides a brief guide to the Inquests and Coroners Courts from the perspective of a personal injury practitioner unfamiliar with Coronial Law setting out an accessible introduction to the key law and issues that the personal injury practitioner is likely to face during a Coronial investigation.