Your le­gal ques­tions

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Garage - An­drew Camp­bell So­lic­i­tor and au­thor of the MCN Law col­umn for the last five years An­drew Camp­bell, Bikelawyer. Visit or email an­ or call 01446 794169

‘An in­quest is an en­quiry into a death – but it is not a trial’

Q What is an in­quest for?

A friend’s boyfriend sadly lost his life last year while out with a group of bik­ers on a Sun­day morn­ing run. He lost con­trol on a bend. What caused him to lose con­trol is not clear as his friends who wit­nessed the ac­ci­dent deny that he (or they) were speed­ing. My friend’s fam­ily li­ai­son of­fi­cer has said that the in­quest will be soon. Can you tell me what is in­volved in an in­quest and what we should do? Linda B, by email

An in­quest is a med­i­cal/le­gal en­quiry held by a coroner into a death – but it is not a trial. The pur­pose is to es­tab­lish the iden­tity of the de­ceased, when the per­son died, where they died and how the death oc­curred. In road traf­fic ac­ci­dents the most com­mon verdict is ac­ci­den­tal death.

In­quests can be very use­ful fact find­ing ex­er­cises in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a civil claim against a third party on be­half of the es­tate of the de­ceased. For ex­am­ple the coroner can be asked to call wit­nesses so that they can give ev­i­dence and the so­lic­i­tor or bar­ris­ter rep­re­sent­ing the fam­ily can ques­tion them at the hear­ing.

Ad­vance disclosure can be sought, for ex­am­ple of the col­li­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s re­port, which will be an ex­pert opin­ion as to how the ac­ci­dent oc­curred. This can be vi­tal as there may have been a con­tam­i­nant on the road sur­face, a ve­hic­u­lar de­fect (which will be dealt with by a po­lice ve­hi­cle ex­am­iner) or a prob­lem with the road sur­face.

I would sug­gest that the fam­ily seek le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the in­quest. Of­ten, an in­sur­ance pol­icy will pay for the le­gal costs or, if the ev­i­dence is that a suc­cess­ful civil claim can be brought, a so­lic­i­tor may be happy to act on a no-win, no-fee ba­sis.

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