Involvement of the coroner

If someone dies from an asbestos related disease, or there is a concern that a death is in some way linked to asbestos, an inquest or investigation into the death will be carried out by a coroner.

We understand that dealing with a coroner shortly after the loss of a relative can be very tough for families. Our asbestos claims team are happy to provide help and guidance throughout this difficult time. In appropriate cases, we will also represent the family at the inquest.

Reporting a death to the coroner

A death is usually reported to the coroner by the medical staff treating the person who has died. This may include hospital staff or a GP. The registrar may also report the death to the coroner.

If you suspect that the death is related to an asbestos disease and are concerned, then you must report the death to the coroner yourself. This is particularly important if there is an ongoing claim for compensation, as the coroner’s verdict and findings will become part of the evidence in the civil claim.

What is the role of the coroner?

The coroner is an independent judicial officer. The coroner’s job is to establish who has died, how, when and where. The coroner is not concerned with civil or criminal liability.

The coroner’s involvement is unrelated to any claim for compensation. However, a coroner’s verdict of ‘industrial disease’ as the cause of death, can be used to support a claim. If the coroner does not record the death as an industrial disease you may still be able to make a successful claim for compensation.

If an inquest is planned, but has not yet taken place, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can assess how we may assist in providing information and evidence to the coroner, and whether we should be present at the inquest to represent your interests.

The post-mortem

A post-mortem may be required to establish exactly how the person died. The decision to hold a post-mortem rests with the coroner and the post mortem itself will be performed by a pathologist.

Small tissue samples are often taken during the post-mortem for examination.

It is important that these tissue samples are not destroyed. They may be needed for further analysis in relation to an asbestos claim as they form a part of the evidence. The coroner, or coroner’s officer, will ask you what you would like to do with the tissue samples once the investigation has been completed. Please ask for them to be retained. We will also contact the coroner to ensure that this takes place.

After the post-mortem

Once the post-mortem has been carried out the coroner will release the body for the funeral or cremation. All receipts for these expenses should be kept as they can be included in a compensation claim.

After reading the pathologist’s report the coroner will decide whether an inquest is required. In most cases involving asbestos the coroner will open and then adjourn the inquest providing details of the inquest date once it has been set.

At this point the coroner will also issue an interim death certificate. This will certify the fact of death and should enable all insurance claims etc. to be processed. However, it cannot be used to register the death.

The interim death certificate will however, allow the estate to be administered and if there is a Will, you can apply for a Grant of Probate. If a Will was not made, the next of kin may apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration.

Our wealth protection team can provide advice or help with the probate process.

What happens at a coroner’s inquest?

An inquest will be held if either the cause of death is not established at post-mortem, or the cause of death was found to be unnatural i.e. death due to industrial disease.

The inquest will determine the circumstances of the death. The coroner will establish the answers to these questions:

  • who the deceased was,
  • where and when the deceased died
  • how the deceased came about their death.

Before the inquest

The inquest is the final stage of the coroner’s investigation. It is not a trial and rarely involves a jury. However, the court is open to the public and the local press may attend.

During the investigation the coroner is assisted by the coroner’s officer. They may contact you and your family to obtain a statement of fact. This is evidence of the circumstances surrounding the death. Similar statements will also be obtained from the medical staff involved in the care of the deceased before their death. Copies of any witness statements that we hold will also be provided (with your permission).

The coroner will decide whether or not witnesses will be required to attend the inquest.

During the inquest

If you have provided a statement and think that giving evidence at the inquest will be too difficult or distressing for you, let the coroner or coroner’s officer know as it may be possible to make arrangements for your statement to be read out on your behalf.

After hearing all of the evidence the coroner will give a verdict as to the cause of death. In cases involving asbestos exposure the cause of death may be recorded as ‘Industrial Disease’.

After the inquest

The coroner will inform the registrar of births and deaths and a final death certificate will then be issued. Certified copies will be available if they are required as formal proof of death for banks, insurance companies and/or pension providers etc.

Summary of the involvement of the coroner in making an asbestos claim:

At the time of death

  • Where a death is caused by or related to asbestos it must be reported to your local coroner
  • Speak to the medical staff who were involved in your relative’s care to ensure that it is correctly reported to the coroner
  • If you have concerns that the death has not been correctly reported to the coroner then reject the death certificate and contact the coroner yourself. You must also ensure that you contact us immediately

Post Mortem

  • A post-mortem examination is usually needed to prove an asbestos related disease as the cause of death. Lung tissue samples may be taken for testing. Ensure that these samples are retained and not destroyed or used for medical research. We will contact the coroner to request the samples
  • Funeral arrangements can be made after the post-mortem. Ensure that you retain receipts in respect of all expenses as these form part of your claim for compensation
  • An interim death certificate will be issued which can be used to administer the estate. If you require a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration please contact us for further information

Inquest

  • You may be asked to provide a statement to the coroner regarding the circumstances surrounding the death
  • Where the cause of death is unclear the coroner will open and adjourn the inquest and set a date for the inquest
  • Family members have the right to attend the inquest and we may also attend
  • The coroner will reach a conclusion as to the cause of death and will give a verdict
  • Following the inquest the coroner will notify the registrar of births and deaths and the final death certificate will be issued

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General asbestos claims FAQs

  • How long do I have to make an asbestos claim?

    For people with an asbestos related disease there is usually no problem in bringing a claim, even though the exposure occurred a long time ago. This is because you have three years from the date it can reasonably have been expected that you “knew or ought to have known” that your condition may be associated with your asbestos exposure, within which to issue court proceedings. If someone dies within three years of this date then the personal Will representative for the estate has three years from the date of death within which to issue court proceedings. However, there are some circumstances where exceptions can be made, so please do contact us so that we can advise you appropriately.

  • What can I claim for?

    This will vary from case to case and will depend on the type of disease you are suffering from, the medical treatment that you may require and any losses incurred.

    The claim amount may be made up of the following:

    • An amount for the disease itself. Any care that you have received in the past and any that you may need in the future, whether that is paid or unpaid. We can also include a claim for costs incurred by a hospice (both visits to the home by hospice nurses and residential care).
    • Any loss of income that you have suffered and any that you may suffer in the future.
    • The cost of the requirement of additional services such as DIY, gardening, window cleaning etc, (Whether those services are paid for or provided by a friend or family member).
    • A claim on behalf of dependants (such as a spouse, child or other family member) for services provided, care provided or financial dependency.
    • Out of pocket expenses such as aids and equipment, travel, private medical costs and alternative treatment costs.
  • What are the steps to make an asbestos claim?

    We are happy to discuss the possibility of bringing a claim, without any obligation to take matters further.

    In addition to understanding how the asbestos related diagnosis came about and the impact of that diagnosis, we will ask for information about how you or your loved one came into contact with asbestos so we can start to assess your potential claim.

    Even if you haven’t worked directly with asbestos or cannot recall the circumstances of your asbestos exposure then still get in touch with us as it may well be that, after careful questioning, it becomes apparent where and when your exposure to asbestos is likely to have occurred. We have an extensive database of statements and documents involving many UK employers and companies.

    Where asbestos is considered to have potentially played a part in a death, it is important that the local coroner is notified of the death and that a post-mortem takes place. We can advise on this process. An initial interview is always provided free of charge. At that meeting we will discuss how to fund the claim. In the majority of cases, we can act under a Conditional Fee Agreement (‘no win, no fee’).

  • What benefits are available for different asbestos related diseases?

    There are various Government benefits available for those diagnosed with an asbestos related condition, including the following:

    For mesothelioma:

    • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
    • Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979
    • Diffuse Mesothelioma Scheme 2008
    • Diffuse Mesothelioma Payment Scheme 2014

    For asbestos related lung cancer:

    • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
    • Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

    For benign asbestos related diseases (asbestosis and asbestos-related diffuse pleural thickening):

    • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
    • Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979

    We are happy to advise or assist you in making any appropriate applications

  • Can I make a claim on behalf of a loved one who has died?

    It is possible to make an asbestos claim on behalf of a loved one who has died as a result of an asbestos-related disease.

    You may be entitled to claim if you were the spouse or child of someone who lost their life to this disease, or if you were financially dependent on them. The claim is brought by the personal representative of the estate.

    To make a compensation claim in these cases, you must start your claim within three years of the date of death or at the point at which a post-mortem reveals that the death was caused by asbestos exposure.

  • How should my employer have protected me against asbestos exposure?

    A lot of types of asbestos have been under restrictions since the 1970s, the last type was banned in 1999. It is therefore possible to have been exposed to asbestos whilst working on buildings that were built or refurbished before 2000 and in many other professions, we see a large number of former laggers’ or plumbers who have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease after exposure at work.

    Guidance regulations were introduced in 1970 on the use of asbestos in the workplace. These days, employers must follow strict rules set out by the Health and Safety Executive. They should:

    • Identify any asbestos present and what type it is
    • Carry out a risk assessment to see whether it is possible to do the work without asbestos exposure
    • Consider whether the work should be done by a contractor who holds a special license to handle asbestos
    • Notify the relevant authority to let them know about the work that will involve asbestos
    • Provide training and protective equipment to employees

    If your employer failed to follow regulations around the use of asbestos and you later developed an asbestos-related illness, you could be entitled to compensation.

  • Who will be paying for my asbestos claim?

    The company where you worked at the time of your asbestos exposure, or the defendant company, is liable to pay your compensation. However due to the latency period of asbestos in the body a lot of companies have ceased trading once a claim is relevant. If your former employer has gone out of business, you could still make a claim. The company is likely to have been insured to deal with claims such as this, so it will be the insurer’s responsibility to meet the compensation claim.

    In cases where the companies have gone out of business and the insurers are untraceable there are benefits and in some cases, lump sums, set up to compensate those diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases.

  • Will my asbestos case go to court?

    Our highly experienced mesothelioma and asbestos claims solicitors are recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as experts in handling asbestos related claims. Whilst we cannot guarantee that any particular claim will settle out of court, we take great care in investigating and preparing each claim that we take on. Our clients’ claims usually settle successfully without the need for a contested trial.

    Even in non-contested cases, there will be occasions when the case is brought for shorter hearings before the court. In these cases, the lawyers for both sides present the agreed settlement to the court for the judge’s approval.

  • What if I was not exposed to asbestos at work?

    It may be that you did not come into contact with asbestos through your work. We also act for people who contracted mesothelioma through washing a loved one’s overalls, by living near to an asbestos factory or by attending a school where asbestos was disturbed. We may also be able to bring a claim on behalf of those who believe they were exposed to asbestos whilst they were self-employed.

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