Fatal road accidents happen every day. You never think it is going to happen to your loved one. If it does, not only is it devastating to lose someone you love, but the legal processes which then occur can be bewildering. At this time you need a friendly and sympathetic ear that can listen to you as well as explain in clear terms what these legal processes are.
There will be a police investigation - which can often take weeks if not months. The Police will bring in to play their expertise to try to gather and analyse the evidence. This can take time. They will normally appoint a liaison officer to keep in touch with the family of the deceased, which will help, but in many cases the police are not able to say much to the family about what happened in case that might be thought to prejudice future proceedings.
The police have a duty to present their findings to the Coroner at an Inquest. Normally an inquest will be opened and adjourned fairly quickly with identification of the body and approval of the release of the body the only issues that can be dealt with at that early stage. Weeks if not months later the inquest will resume with evidence presented to the coroner. Any party with a legitimate interest in the case may be represented. The insurance companies for any vehicles involved will often instruct lawyers to attend. If there is an issue as to the layout of the road or the accident location is thought to be an 'accident blackspot' the highway authority might also attend.
We can represent you at the hearing. At the hearing questions can be put to witnesses to try to get to the truth of what happened. Although witnesses can be questioned, the coroner will not allow the 'grilling' of witnesses. No one is on trial - the hearing is intended to be a search for the truth. If a motorist is facing the possibility of criminal charges, he or she will not be obliged to answer questions which might incriminate him or her. The inquest is likely to be the first opportunity to find out what happened. Documents such as photographs, sketch plans of the road layout and witness statements are likely to be available for the first time - though it is often the case that the documents are only made available minutes before the hearing starts.
If you wish to be represented at a coroner's inquest please give us a call.
The police may decide to bring criminal charges - such as careless driving or causing death by dangerous driving - against a motorist involved in the accident. Where criminal proceedings are brought, the police are likely to be cautious about revealing information about the case to the family for fear of prejudicing a fair trial for the Defendant. This can be frustrating and upsetting as the family of the victim can feel excluded. The Crown Prosecution Service will make the decision to prosecute, but the police should consult the family and take their wishes into account. The family are not deemed to be a party in the proceedings and are therefore not allowed to be represented at the hearing. However, the family might be asked to make an impact statement to the court before sentencing. This may or may not be something you feel you want to do. Where there is a criminal trial, even though you cannot be represented, you can have a lawyer sitting in the courtroom to take a note of the proceedings. It is likely to be important to note carefully what witnesses say about how the accident happened.
Making a Civil Claim
If it can be proved on the balance of probabilities that the accident was caused by the negligence of another motorist, then a claim can be made.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 dependents of the deceased such as a husband or wife or children can make a claim. Other relatives who were dependent on the deceased such as an elderly parent may also be able to claim.
Depending on the circumstances a claim can be made for:
Our team of specialist Fatal Road Accident solicitors have won many claims for fatal road accidents. They can often pursue your claim for compensation on a no win no fee basis. They will advise you on the merits of your case. They will gather the evidence and advise you on how best to put your case forward. They will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Your case will be handled with proper senstivity. You will be advised on the procedures involved following the death of your loved one, including the Police investigation, Inquest and any criminal prosecutions. You will be advised on what civil claims you may be able to make.We know that nothing we do will turn back the clock. We hope that we will be able to help you and your family through this most traumatic time.