Fatal Accident Inquiries

Fatal accident inquiries occur when an unexpected death occurs that warrants investigation. Our lawyers are experts in accident law and will help guide you through this stressful situation.

Fatal Accident Inquiries FAQ

A: The purpose of a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) is to establish what caused a death, the circumstances leading to it and how it can be avoided in the future.

Most deaths in Scotland are expected and dealt with in the usual way with a death certificate being issued and a burial etc. However, there are deaths which occur unexpectedly and require investigation. Statistics show that around 7 thousand deaths each year in Scotland require to be referred to the Procurator Fiscal. Whilst the majority of those deaths can be explained after a cursory investigation by the Procurator Fiscal there remain cases where the death merits further investigation or where the circumstances of the death merit an inquiry so as to establish not only the cause but how similar deaths can be avoided in the future.

Unexplained Deaths

An unexplained death is deemed to be unexplained where the cause of death is not clear according to medical professionals.

Where death is sudden or unexplained and medical professionals are unable to issue a death certificate, it must be reported to the local Procurator Fiscal who have a “death unit”. The Procurator Fiscal is responsible for deciding what type of investigation is required. The Procurator Fiscal can refer the investigation to the police. Although it is necessary for the death to be reported to the Procurator Fiscal, after initial investigation with the medical profession, it may be decided that no further action needs to be taken and a death certificate can be issued. However, there are occasions when a more detailed investigation is required.

Suspicious Deaths

Death is deemed to be suspicious when it is thought that criminal conduct is involved. Suspicious deaths are reported to the Procurator Fiscal. There will then be a Police investigation.

Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAI)

The purpose of a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) is to establish the cause of death, the circumstances which led to the death and to find ways in which to prevent the death in question from happening again. Witnesses are called to give evidence at Fatal Accident Inquiries and documentary evidence can be submitted too. The Sheriff presides over the evidence presented during the hearing and delivers a judgement known as a determination. Fatal Accident Inquiries are not criminal trials and there are no findings of guilt attributed to individuals. However, a fatal accident inquiry may be held even though criminal proceedings are to be brought against an individual in relation to the death. The Fatal Accident Inquiry would normally be postponed until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

In some circumstances a Fatal Accident Inquiry is mandatory. 

-Where a person is in police custody or in prison

-Where an employee or someone self-employed dies during the course of their employment.

It is the responsibility of the Procurator Fiscal to lead the evidence in a Fatal Accident Inquiry. Some of the witnesses involved in the Fatal Accident Inquiry, including relatives of the deceased, may be entitled to legal representation and Legal Aid may be available for this representation. If you require such representation then do not hesitate to contact our team of Fatal Accident Inquiry lawyers who are experts in accident law.

The determination of the Sheriff will establish:

-Where and when the death and any accident resulting in the death took place;

-The cause or causes of such death and any accident resulting in the death;

-How the death and any accident resulting in the death might have been avoided;

-Any defects in working practices or systems that contributed to the death

Any recommendations of the Sheriff should be implemented.

Fatal accident inquiries lawyers

If you or your business is involved or affected by a Fatal Accident Inquiry then do not hesitate to call our team of lawyers. We will assist you in the preparation and presentation of your evidence at such an Inquiry. Our lawyers are experts in accident law. If you are unsure whether you qualify for Legal Aid, contact our fatal accident inquiry lawyers. We will help to explain what you are entitled to.