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Inquests and Inquest Reports

If a person dies in Ireland in sudden, unexplained, or violent circumstances, a public inquest into death may be held by a Coroner to establish the cause of death.

What is an inquest?

An inquest into death is an official, public enquiry, led by a coroner, sometimes involving a jury, into the circumstances of an unexplained or sudden death.  An inquest is not usually held if a post-mortem can establish the cause of death.

In certain cases, such as where death has occurred due to homicide or a road traffic accident, a coroner is required by law to call a jury to hear the inquest report and deliver their verdict on the cause of death.

What is the purpose of inquests and inquest reports?

The purpose of an inquest into death is to establish the facts surrounding the death for the public record including, where necessary, the identification of the deceased and the date, location, and time of death. A Coroner’s Court establishes facts for the public record and cannot make a finding in relation to liability for a death, whether civil or criminal. The Coroner may reach any of a number of different verdicts such as natural causes, accidental death, misadventure or, in rare cases, unlawful killing.

The family of the deceased will be informed of the date and location of the inquest into death but are not legally required to attend. It is open to the family to retain legal representation on their behalf to take notes of the proceedings to in contemplation of litigation arising out of the death. If a family have suspicions about the death of a deceased, they can write to the Coroner requesting an inquest where one has not already been called, setting out their reasons why one should be held.

“Properly interested persons”

Witnesses may need to be called to testify under oath as to the circumstances of the death. It is open to the family of a deceased person they believe died in suspicious circumstances to write to the Coroner requesting that an inquest be held. The coroner will allow “properly interested persons” such as the deceased’s next of kin or personal representative, or the legal representative for those persons, to ask questions of the witnesses at the inquest. While no findings regarding liability may be made, vital information can be obtained from inquests.

If Garda investigations or criminal proceedings are ongoing, these must be completed before an inquest can be completed and an inquest may be adjourned to facilitate same.

All inquests are held in public and reporters may be present, but only a minority of inquests are reported on.

Courtney v Our Lady’s Hospital Ltd 

The High Court decided in the case of Courtney v Our Lady’s Hospital Ltd t/a Our Lady’s Hospital Crumlin & Ors in 2008 that in circumstances where the death of a person has been shown to be due to the wrongful act of another, it is usually possible to recover the cost of legal representation at the inquest in the subsequent civil case arising out of the death. Accordingly, the costs of engaging legal representation for an inquest may be recoverable in the subsequent civil case where another party is liable for the death.

Why should I consider Lavelle Partners to assist with an inquest?

  • Lavelle Partners have vast experience in dealing with cases inquests and inquest reports.
  • Our team have been helping clients since 2004, with decades of combined experience across the team, and place client care at the centre of everything they do.
  • From the first moment you speak to one of our solicitors, we will listen to your case carefully and with empathy and will only recommend advancing your case if we believe you have a valid case.
  • We have both the legal expertise and understanding of the real-life challenges faced by families who want answers about the death of a loved one.
  • Our solicitors will manage the process entirely on your behalf; compiling the information necessary for your case, including medical notes and managing the submission of your medical negligence claim.
  • We will answer any subsequent questions and/or provide further information if required.
  • The Lavelle Partners Medical Negligence Team were winners of Medical Negligence Team of the Year 2022 at the Irish Law Awards.

Recent news and insights

Why might you need a solicitor in relation to an inquest?

Calls for reform of the coroner’s court

Inquests and inquest reports

For further information, or to speak to a solicitor regarding inquests and inquest reports, please contact Lavelle Partners in confidence on (01) 644 5800 or email Avril Scally at ascally@lavellepartners.ie or Nicholas Moore at nmoore@lavellepartners.ie.

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