Thompsons fatal accident solicitors
Every year thousands of deaths are reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; of these, around 50 are likely to result in a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI). More than one-third of these FAIs will result in the Sheriff making recommendations that are designed to prevent a similar accident from occurring in the future.
However, although a Fatal Accident Inquiry can provide answers and seek to ensure the safety of others in the future, an FAI alone cannot provide compensation for those left bereaved by the incident. In order to ensure compensation, In order to seek compensation, it is necessary to instruct a personal injury solicitor.
Thompsons is one of Scotland's leading personal injury firms and we are proud to have played a large part in achieving revisions to the Fatal Accident Act, which was written into legislation in 2015. Although these changes went some way to addressing a number of concerns – it can be argued that they did not go far enough.
Thompsons view on Fatal Accident Inquiries
Our experience of assisting the families of victims of fatal accidents led us to call for changes in the FAI process. These were as follows:
- The families of the deceased should be at the heart of the process. Their concerns and questions should be given paramount importance in the investigation and they should be properly funded to have legal representatives to represent their interests.
- The process must begin as quickly as possible. Any conflict with criminal issues can be avoided by the inquiry process being adjourned, should that be necessary, or by the inquiry only considering certain matters which will not be before the criminal courts until the criminal matter is concluded. This serves an important double function of meeting the families' need for urgency and also in not causing any prejudice to any criminal trial.
- The inquiry must be undertaken by Scotland's most senior judges.
- The process should bring all of the parties to the fatal accident inquiry back before the judge at a certain period after his/her determination (say six months) to ensure changes have been enacted.
- There should be a clearer power for the Judge to report to Ministers at both Holyrood and Westminster if it is clear that a change in the law is required.
- The senior judges must have appropriate and necessary power to ensure that lessons are learned and that changes occur by being able to require, rather than simply recommend, that practices change.
However, despite the new legislation, we feel that significant problems with the system remain and families continue to suffer as a result.
The process is still too slow and while there has been an emphasis on speed and efficiency once an Inquiry reaches court, it can still take years before the procurator fiscal's office makes a decision on whether an inquiry will be held.
While we acknowledge that the gathering of evidence and investigation into the sometimes complex circumstances surrounding a fatal accident must be carried out correctly and exhaustively, we feel there are certainly some cases which have suffered from inordinate and unexplained delays before a decision was made.
In 2016 the Inspectorate of Prosecution acknowledged the distress and trauma that a family experiences following the death of a loved one, and the bewildering and concerning nature of having to deal with the procurator fiscal service. It added that "protracted investigation and unexplained delays are likely to undermine public confidence in [the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service] and, potentially, in Fatal Accident Inquiries”. And yet, unexplained delays and confidence failings still occur with distressing regularity.
Help with FAIs and compensation-related questions
Do you want help and advice in relation to a Fatal Accident Inquiry and/or related compensation. Call 0800 0891 331 for free legal advice from Thompsons, the leading personal injury firm in Scotland.