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What to expect

A death that arises from a road traffic accident is sudden and unexpected. Loved ones are often left with a void, having had no time to prepare for the loss, so we wanted to help explain some of the things you may be left dealing with following a fatal accident.

What to expect

The loss of a loved one can throw you into a world of inquests and police investigations. Trying to understand what comes next during this time can be difficult.

Bereavement support

Any accident with a fatality is life-changing and turns the world completely upside down for loved ones. It’s a very difficult thing to come to terms with. Talking and sharing your feelings with someone can help.

While some people find the support of family and friends the best way to cope, there are also bereavement services available to help across the country that provide support to cope with traumatic events and loss.

Coroner's inquest

A coroner is a judge who investigates, among other things, violent or unnatural deaths and a road death is just that. The purpose of an inquest is to determine how the person has been killed, not to find guilt or apportion blame. There will usually be a number of individuals who give evidence at an inquest, including the pathologist, police officers, witnesses, and drivers involved.

Family members of the victim are able to attend and can have legal representation with them to help with asking any questions they may have. The process can be uncomfortable and impersonal and lead to more questions than answers. Quite often, the police are going through evidence the family may not have been aware of, with the level of detail police can go into. It can be quite an upsetting day, but it can help to understand what has happened. The uncomfortable details are necessary for the coroner to help them come to a conclusive finding.


Following a tragic death on the road, a post-mortem, or autopsy, is typically carried out on the body to understand the nature and cause of a person’s death. The report from the post-mortem will form part of the police investigation, as if criminal charges are made it is necessary to prove the collision caused the injuries which resulted in death. A post-mortem will be carried out as soon as possible, usually within 2 to 3 working days of a person’s death. Depending on when the examination takes place, it may be possible for family to see the body before the post-mortem is carried out.

Organ donation

Organ donation can be a challenging thing to comprehend, on often the worst day of your life. Organ donation has the ability to save and enhance several people’s lives, but there are reasons and beliefs which make people choose not to go down this route.

All adults in England are considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate, otherwise known as ‘opting out’. In certain cases where police are investigating the accident as a serious crime, it may not be possible to engage in organ donation as evidence of injuries may be needed. For more information on organ donation visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk

Support and resources

Having supported many families through the trauma of a fatal accident, our dedicated team are able to help you access the care you need.