The Telegraph’s legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors is an expert at winning compensation for clients in personal injury cases. This week he highlights the issue of fatal accident inquiries, and the fact it can often take years before an inquiry is held, if ever.
A Scots Sheriff has recently criticised the Crown over an almost 4 year delay in fully investigating the death of a man who committed suicide hours after being released from psychiatric care.
Sadly, it is my experience from representing bereaved families that such delays are not uncommon. All too often many years pass and evidence is lost or forgotten before proper investigations can be made.
In the case of accidental deaths the correct forum for investigation is a Fatal Accident Inquiry, - a judicial process which investigates and determines the circumstances of accidental deaths occurring in Scotland.
FAI’s are mandatory when the death occurred during the course of the deceased’s employment.
Changes in the way FAI’s are conducted are being considered.
At the moment it can take three years or longer after an accidental death before an FAI commences.
I have had a number of cases where the legal process has dragged on for so long that I have been forced to raise a legal action against the Lord Advocate to put pressure on her to order an inquiry.
This is truly unacceptable. Lengthy delay means the cause of an accident is often not addressed and another tragic repeat of the same circumstances remains a possibility.
More importantly, delay in holding an Inquiry keeps the family of the victim in limbo, without any answers or explanations and unable to grieve.
I have made representations to change things: placing relatives at the centre, commencing inquiries quickly and ensuring that lessons are learned and, if needs be, enforced.
Surely that is the least we can do for victims families?