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The purpose of an Inquest, what it involves and whether a Solicitor is required to represent the family.

Posted in [Blog] on Wednesday, July 19th, 2023

Prior to an Inquest a post mortem is commonly requested when a death was unexpected.  The post mortem (autopsy) is a medical examination of the body usually performed by a Pathologist.  If this can explain the cause of death then an inquest may not be required.

If an Inquest is required, the family will be notified by the Coroner’s office.  An Inquest is a public legal inquiry following a death which usually occurred in unusual and unexpected circumstances.

An Inquest may explain the cause of death or establish medical misadventure.  The Inquest is led by a Coroner who in some circumstances sits with a jury.  The Coroner is an independent public official who acts of behalf of the State in the public interest.

The media are entitled to attend.  In reality only high-profile inquests are reported.

The Coroner, or jury, will attempt to make a finding on how, when, where the death occurred and any relevant circumstances leading up to the death.  They do not make a finding regarding criminal or civil liability i.e. nobody is found innocent or guilty (that would be the function of criminal or civil proceedings). The Coroner may make a general recommendation to prevent similar deaths occurring, but it is not about finding fault.

Witnesses are usually called to give evidence e.g. in a queried medical negligence scenario the doctors and relevant medical professionals who took care of the deceased in the lead up to their death.

The range of verdicts include:

  • Accidental death
  • Misadventure
  • Suicide
  • Natural causes
  • Unlawful killing
  • Open verdict – where the evidence doesn’t fully explain the cause of death.
  • Narrative verdict – where there is a summary recorded of the Pathologist’s findings.

After the Inquest, the Coroner will issue a Certificate and then the death can be properly registered, including details of the verdict / cause of death.

Families often instruct a Solicitor to represent them at the inquest.  Cantillons have represented numerous families at Inquests over the years.  It is not obligatory but it can be helpful to prepare questions and queries, guide them through the process and get as many answers as possible bearing in mind the purpose and remit of an Inquest.  Sometimes, following an Inquest, civil legal proceedings (e.g. medical negligence) can be taken, if that is envisaged it may be useful (but not essential) to engage a Solicitor to attend the inquest and represent you.

Alternatively, in some circumstances the Gardai may bring criminal charges.

The hope is that the family and loved ones of the Deceased will obtain the answers they require about the death at the end of this process, and it is also hoped that recommendations be made, if possible and if relevant, in order to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at Cork  +353 (0)21 4275673 or Dublin +353 (0)1 264 1802 or email  if you would like more information.

* In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. Many Personal Injury Solicitors portray themselves as “no win no fee Solicitors Cork” or “no win no fee Solicitors Dublin”. This term can be misleading and it is essential that you discuss fees with the Medical Negligence Solicitor you ultimately choose. At Cantillons Solicitors, we are entirely transparent

Orla Kelly



Orla qualified as a Solicitor in 2014, having complete her traineeship with the firm. Since joining the firm in 2012, Orla has gained a variety of experience acting for clients and their families.Orla has a particular focus on medical negligence and defective medical device claims, including acting for clients who have received the recalled DePuy ASR hip device. Orla is also a Registered Pharmacist and previously worked for a number of years as a hospital clinical pharmacist. Her combined knowledge of pharmacy and law benefits her work in the Medical Negligence team at the firm.  She listens and responds to individual clients’ varying needs.

Qualifications / Associations

  • Honours Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Law
  • Honours Master’s Degree in Pharmacy
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pharmacy
  • Admitted to the Roll of Solicitors 2014
  • Member of Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland
  • Member of Action Against Medical Accidents

Related Solicitors

Ernest J. Cantillon

Managing Partner

Orla Kelly


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