There are certain situations that are unforeseen but quite unavoidable. One of these is a coroner’s inquest. If you are set to participate in, give evidence to, or simply prepare for a coroner’s inquest, it always pays to know what you are up against. Knowing what’s in store can give you an edge, whether you are simply answering questions, preparing a written statement, or trying to find out what really happened in someone’s unfortunate death.

The purpose of a coroner’s inquest

First of all, you need to know the purpose of a coroner’s inquest. It has a simple purpose: to answer questions such as who died, where and when that person died, what was the cause of their death, and how they died (from a medical standpoint). But it is usually the ‘how’ questions that are the most important.

What you should know (and what most people mistakenly assume) is that a coroner’s inquest is not held to lay responsibility or blame on anyone, and neither is it a civil or criminal procedure. It is simply a fact-finding mission. Any criminal liabilities will be dealt with after an inquest, if need be.

The length of the process

A coroner’s inquest, whilst not an overly long procedure, usually lasts from three to nine months after a person’s death. But keep in mind that complex deaths and cases may take longer to examine and investigate. In any case, it is best to be prepared for a procedure that will take a significant amount of time and effort.

How information is gathered in a coroner’s inquest

The officers of the coroner will be the ones responsible for putting together the evidence of a case, and this evidence varies from written evidence to verbal accounts, video evidence, and more.

The information gathered will generally include statements from family members about the background of the deceased, as well as any health issues or concerns the deceased may have had. But other individuals apart from the family may also be asked to make a statement, depending on the circumstances and their amount of knowledge. Relatives and family members who have any issues or concerns about the person’s death may also include them when they are making their statement.

Aside from details regarding the personal background of the deceased, the coroner’s report also includes information on the post mortem, if any. There may also be additional reports from medical representatives (doctors and nurses), other eyewitnesses, and police officers.

In making a report about a case, it is important to stay as clear and concise as possible. That is why those who are involved in a coroner’s inquest usually have all the details (interviews with family members or friends, eyewitness accounts, etc.) professionally transcribed, so there is no room for misunderstandings or worse, major errors. Transcription services are very useful in coroner’s inquests, especially if the circumstances of a death involve many participants or accounts.

Scheduling a hearing

When the coroner has received all the necessary statements and reports, they will then determine who will have to be called in, or who can simply have their statement read in court. Afterwards, the date for the coroner’s inquest will be arranged, provided those who are required to attend are available at that particular time. Those family members who are not required to attend will still be given the schedule of the hearing so they have the option to appear. The coroner’s inquest is an ‘open court’, which means that relatives can invite friends of the deceased to attend as well.

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