Am I entitled to legal representation following bereavement?

If you were to read the ‘daunting’ Guide to Coroners’ Services following the loss of a loved one, not only would your mind become overburdened at a time when you want straight answers, but also there’s a very real possibility that the guide will mislead you in its current format.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers was recently invited to outline its concerns over the manner in which the document’s current revision exists.

If a loved one has been killed in circumstances that mean a coroner has to become legally involved, few people know their rights. Through its response, APIL hopes to clarify exactly that.

Know you’re entitled to representation in coronial proceedings

Whilst the APIL acknowledged the necessity for a guide outlining representation for those suffering from losing a loved one, the revisions suggested may not make sense to the layman.

For one, the Guide to Coroners Services is a lengthy document and its style is allegedly inconsistent throughout. There are aspects that many would understand. Conversely, there are some extremely technical points.

The solution APIL has put forward is to make a concise document that covers the basics for the bereaved.

This would point out when and how to get representation and also give succour to grieving relations knowing that they don’t have to take on a large corporation without at least some legal support in any ensuing case.

Representation by a personal injury solicitor not even mentioned in Guide

The points the Association makes in its response to the Ministry of Justice, not all concerning the guide itself, go as far to suggest that the document may be deliberately misleading.

One may understand if the guide simply omitted to mention that a lawyer can be present during the coroners participation in the case.

However, the “overarching tone of the guide”, according to APIL, is to dissuade people from engaging in legal representation completely.

The recommendation by the Association is that it’s made clear that a personal injury lawyer can be appointed to help the bereaved throughout the entire coronial process.

The bereaved family has to instigate the civil claim

Another aspect of the new rules that upset the APIL is the wording relating to how a case brought against a prospective responsible party will automatically ensue once the coroner has reached their decision.

As it stands, the Guide is worded in such a way that it suggests a civil case will automatically begin at this point. However, it doesn’t.

Not until the bereaved have engaged the services of a Personal Injury Solicitor will there be any movement to make the guilty party at least defend any possible negligence in court.

Understandably, APIL wants this changed to make it absolutely clear that there is no autonomy to such cases and all have to be instigated by the remaining family or friend.

In summary, Matthew Stockwell, newly-appointed president of the APIL, concedes that the document has been drafted with the best of intentions, but falls short as a practicable document.

Anyone with any concerns whatsoever regarding their legal stance following the death of a close relation should contact a personal injury solicitor to seek clarification of their rights to representation.

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