‘A Practical Guide to Inquests within Personal Injury Claims’ by Bridget Dolan QC, Michael Walsh, Rachel Spearing
Publication due: TBA
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Bridget Dolan QC of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers is regularly instructed in inquests and inquiries of the greatest complexity and sensitivity acting for bereaved families, individual interested persons and for public or corporate bodies. Her inquest practice covers the entire range of heavyweight cases that come before a Coroner including deaths following clinical negligence, in accidents at work, deaths after restraint and fatal self-harm by detainees. She is often instructed in lengthy and high media profile ‘Article 2’ inquests following deaths in state detention or contentious inquests where issues of unlawful killing and corporate manslaughter arise.
That she sits part-time as a Coroner gives Bridget a particular insight into how to approach the most challenging of cases. Her extensive legal knowledge is put to good use as the editor of the Inquest Law Reports and the popular UK Inquest Law blog.
Michael Walsh also practices at Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, and has more than 20 years’ experience of Inquest and Inquiries, and litigating Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury claims for significant and fatal injuries. Michael therefore advises and represents a wide range of Interested Persons in the coronial process, including bereaved families, individual clinicians, hospital Trusts, medical defence organisations and Coroners. As Michael is also a part-time Coroner himself, he acts as an advocate, and sits as an Assistant Coroner, on jury and Article 2 Inquests involving workplace, rail transport, medical, police, and prison deaths, and he maintains a particular interest in Inquests involving mental health issues.