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What is a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI)?

A Fatal Accident Inquiry is an inquiry that looks into the circumstances where someone has died because of an accident.  A FAI is compulsory where someone dies because of an accident at work or dies in custody. In other circumstances a FAI is discretionary.  

Who decides whether there should be a FAI?

It is a decision for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal System (COPFS).

Cost of legal representation at a FAI

Due to the nature of a FAI and the amount of evidence that has to be looked into, these usually last several weeks and sometimes many months. Consequently, the cost of having a lawyer attend the FAI is high. We think that families of people killed in accidents have a right to be legally represented at a FAI for a number of reasons and in particular to get answers as to why the accident happened, who is responsible and how such an accident can be prevented from happening again.

Recognising the difficulties for families of affording the cost of legal representation at the equivalent of a FAI in England (an Inquest) the UK Government has decided that legal aid (In England) will not be means tested. Unfortunately in Scotland, the Scottish Government continue to means test legal aid for a FAI. This puts the cost of legal representation at a FAI in Scotland beyond the reach of most families.  In Scotland if your net income is more than approximately £26,000 a year, you don’t qualify for legal aid at all.  Even if your income is less than £26,000 you are asked to pay towards the cost of legal aid and this can mean a contribution of thousands of pounds, again beyond the reach of most families.

Will the position change in Scotland?

It is not likely to for the immediate future. It will be interesting to see how things develop in England now that legal aid there is not means tested and what the annual cost will be.

How we can help

If you don’t qualify for legal aid for representation at a FAI we can always discuss other funding options with you. In certain circumstances it may be possible to get free representation from the Free Legal Services Unit of the Faculty of Advocates and we can assist with this. Should you wish to discuss any matter relating to this article please contact us on 0800 988 8082 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you.

 

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