It is part of a Coroners duty to investigate and adjudicate on any sudden or unexplained death or any death that the Registrar is unable to register.
Any death thought to be due to an industrial disease, should be reported to the Coroner.
Although only the Registrar is under a statutory duty to report a death to the Coroner Asbestos related deaths are commonly reported by members of the Deceased’s family/GP/Consultant and/or Solicitor.
If the Coroner considers that the death was not from natural causes matters will usually proceed to an Inquest.
Arrangements are normally made for a post-mortem examination preferably by a suitable Histopathologist. A doubtful diagnosis of an asbestos related disease can usually be verified at Necropsy.
When asbestos disease is suspected it is normal that samples of the tissue are sent to an experienced Histopathologist with facilities for determining the number of asbestos fibres per gram of dried lung. An outcome of an asbestos fibre count (asbestos fibre analysis/count) can be extremely helpful. In the general population there will be up to 30,000 fibres of asbestos per gram of dried lung.
In cases of asbestosis there is normally minimum of 100,000 fibres and can usually be very much more than this. Although it should be borne in mind that there can be sampling errors. Discrepancies can arise in relation to the number of fibres taken from one part of the lung as opposed to fibres taken from another part of the lung.
Asbestos fibre counts are not quite as important in cases of Mesothelioma as most Mesotheliomas are thought to be asbestos related.
The Pathologist will prepare a post-mortem report for the Coroner.
In addition to findings in the lungs or peritinium a Pathologists report may also show any other conditions that the Deceased was suffering which may have affected his life expectancy. This may have a bearing on any later assessments of compensation awards.
The Coroner may supply to an interested party (including a Solicitor) a copy of the post-mortem report. It can prove very helpful in a potential asbestos personal injury compensation claim to have sight of the post-mortem report in advance of the Inquest.
Having to attend an Inquest on behalf of a loved one can prove extremely upsetting. It can be helpful and comforting to know that a Solicitor can represent the family at an Inquest. A Solicitor can provide information regarding procedure and advice to a family throughout the Inquest. A legal representative can also help the Coroner by providing any statement(s) made in life by the Deceased or any witnesses, providing details of previous employments and exposure to asbestos. A Solicitor can also take an active role in the Inquest proceedings and may wish to question the Pathologist if there are any issues that arise in the post-mortem report.
A verdict of death due to industrial disease is normally given when someone has died of an asbestos related disease. The evidence used at the inquest can be obtained from the Coroner’s Court and is helpful when pursuing a Civil claim for personal injury compensation.