I was involved in a tragic accident in which a good friend of mine was killed. He appeared to go out of control in front of me, for reasons nobody has ever really got to the bottom of. I’ve been summonsed by the coroner to give evidence at the inquest, which I don’t really want to do.
The deceased was leading a group of motorcycles, including myself. We were all riding quickly but sensibly. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but the second rider said that our mate’s rear wheel just got out of alignment, he came off the bike, and the other rider rode over his back and neck, killing him instantly.
I have no idea what the police are going to say. I know the widow is going to be there, and I have got no idea how she is going to react to any of us. Can I avoid going to the inquest, because I really don’t want to go?
Name and address withheld
As the coroner has summonsed you, you are under a legal obligation to attend the inquest, so long as you remain in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.
The coroner’s court is not designed to say who is to blame for the accident, or to give any punishment. In fact, the coroner can only hope to answer four questions, namely:
- Who died?
- Where they died?
- When they died?
- How they died?
Speak to your insurers about having representation there, as this maybe covered under your insurance policy. The rider who rode over your deceased friend should certainly be represented.
The coroner will ask most of the questions, and he should stop questions designed to prove either criminal or civil liability.
If you feel that that you could incriminate yourself, then you don’t have to answer a question.
The coroner’s court is a formal court, but it is extremely unusual for them to wear anything other than ordinary clothes, although some may choose to wear a blue gown. None of the lawyers will wear anything other than ordinary suits.
My advice is to attend the inquest. It doesn’t sound like you can be said to be blameworthy for anything. If you are asked what speed you were travelling at, you can refuse to answer the question if you were travelling in excess of the speed limit.
You are not entitled to sight of the police report or the accident reconstruction report, but you can ask the coroner for copies of statements that other people have provided. You should also ask the police for the statement, which you no doubt gave them at the time.
Families at coroner’s inquests act with very real dignity, almost without fail. l appreciate that it is going to be very awkward for you to see the widow, but she will have more than enough to think about without worrying about you. I hope it goes as well as it can for you.