The FAQs are answers to questions people often ask when they have been affected by a death on the roads. If you can’t find the answer to your question you can phone us on 01234 843345 or email enquiries@rvtrust.co.uk

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What do you provide?

How do I get some support?

Contact our office on 01234 843345 and ask to speak to one of our Coordinators who will be able to help you. The majority of the support we provide is through weekly one hour sessions in-person at our offices, online, or on the phone, for as long as it is useful. Suitable arrangements can be made to fit your needs.

It’s been a couple of years since the incident, but I think I need support now. Is there a time-limit?

There is no time-limit for accessing support.

How much does it cost?

The service is free of charge. We are a charity and receive funding and donations to provide this service.

How long is it for?

Support can be offered on a short-term or long-term basis.  For as long as it is useful.

Who are the Counselling Volunteers?

Our Counselling Volunteers are people who are able to offer their time to the Trust. They have undertaken a rigorous training course, and regularly participate in on-going training and supervision.

What does the Counselling Volunteer do?

Counselling Volunteers have been trained to listen carefully and offer emotional and practical support, including support through court proceedings. They are familiar with the legal processes and many of the situations you may face and are fully supported in the work they do, and, through the Coordinators, can access information from the police, legal services and other agencies as required.

Can the Counselling Volunteers offer legal advice?

No, they are not qualified to offer legal advice.  However for matters relating to criminal cases a Coordinator will liaise with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service to find relevant information and court dates.  

How do I contact my Counselling Volunteer?

One of our Coordinators will match you up with a Counselling Volunteer and arrange an initial meeting.  You may then agree to meet with your Counselling Volunteer regularly. If you need to contact your Counselling Volunteer to change your appointment you can do this by contacting our office on 01234 843345. You can also contact our Coordinators via this number if you have an urgent question, need help or immediate support (within core office hours 8.30 am to 4.30 pm).

What do I say in my sessions?

There is nothing that you can’t say, or discuss, with your Counselling Volunteer it will depend on what you need from the sessions and may change over time.

Where and when do the sessions take place?

Sessions take place regularly and last about one hour. Initially, you will probably meet once a week, but that may change with time following discussion between you and your Counselling Volunteer.  Sessions will generally take place in-person at our offices, online, or on the phone, for as long as it is useful.  The sessions will be arranged for a time which is convenient for you.

Can my children come too?

We are able to support families as groups or individuals.  The type of support your family receives will be discussed and agreed with our Counselling Volunteer.

My mother-in-Law needs support too. Can she come to my session?

We are able to offer support to all family members.  It may be that you will find having sessions together useful as support is not limited to one member of the family.  Let us know if a family member or friend needs support and we can discuss providing individual support to them too.

My family and friends are helping me. Why should I use this service as well?

Family and friends may be of great support and comfort to you. However, our experience is that our service can offer another level of support that allows you to talk freely without fear of upsetting or offending others, with someone who has specialist knowledge about the specifics of the aftermath of a serious or fatal road collision.

I don’t live in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk or Suffolk can I access your service?

We can only offer our face-to-face service within these three counties however, if we are unable to recommend a local support service to you we will offer what support we can.  This may include telephone support.  If you are in doubt or have any questions please contact the office on 01234 843345.

Who provides the support?

The support is provided either by a Coordinator or Counselling Volunteer who all have a counselling background and have successfully completed the Trust training on working with the specifics of road death, injury, bereavement and trauma.

After the collision

Who are my police contacts?

If you were not involved in the collision then your first contact with the police will be when they visit to let you know what has happened. The Family Liaison Officer (FLO) is part of the investigation team and has been specially trained to work with the family or partner of the deceased. Soon after the collision they may arrange for you to identify the person who has died.

A FLO will be assigned to your family and will act as a point of contact and reference in respect of the investigation. As the investigation progresses they will be available to give you information and answer your questions.

As well as the FLO, you may meet or hear about the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) who leads the investigation team, the Collision Investigator who analyses all the evidence, and the Officer in the case who pulls together all the evidence.

I have a FLO; how is Road Victims Trust able to support me?

The time a FLO has to spend with you will be limited due to their other policing duties. The Road Victims Trust works in partnership with Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Hertfordshire Constabulary and this enables us to access information on the investigation and continue to support the family in ways the FLO is not able to. The Trust offers emotional support that allows difficult and painful matters to be discussed and practical support around inquests and court hearings.

Why did it take so long to notify me?

Following a collision it may take some time for the police to establish and check the identity of those involved. In some cases individuals may have no ID with them or there may be more than one person to match to the ID found in the vehicle.  Sometimes the dead or injured person may have no link to the registration number of the vehicle.

The police need to be sure of the identity of the dead and injured before notifying their families.

How can I find out what happened?

The police investigation team try to keep the next of kin informed about the collision and how the investigation is proceeding.  If you ask questions they can’t answer it is either because they do not have an answer yet or because giving out the information would jeopardise the enquiry. They will let you know why they can’t answer your question.

How long does the investigation take?

The investigation can take many months because there will be experts such as forensic scientists and pathologists working on the case to prepare the file and there may be witnesses to interview. In our experience the initial police investigation often takes about six months, but in complex investigations it can take a lot longer. Once the file is prepared an inquest or criminal proceedings will take place.

When can I get the possessions of the person I lost?

Sometimes it is difficult to understand why the possessions that were in the car aren’t returned straight away. The FLO will be able to let you know why this is, for example it may be part of the evidence needed for the investigation. Mobile telephones for example may need to be sent away for call analysis and so their return is delayed. The FLO will get any possessions back to you as soon as they can.

From hospital to funeral

Will I be asked about organ donation?

Organ donation can only take place in very specific circumstances.  Organs have to be transplanted very soon after someone has died and consequently can only be donated by someone who has died in hospital.  Usually organs come from people who are certified dead while on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit.  If your loved one fits these criteria a trained member of the hospital staff will discuss this with you to get your views and the views of your loved one.

More detailed information on organ donation can be found on www.organdonation.nhs.uk

How will I know about the inquest and the post-mortem?

You will receive a call from a Coroner’s Officer.  The Coroner’s Officer works with the Coroner organising the inquests, liaising with the police and funeral director and contacting families and witnesses.  The Coroner is a lawyer responsible for holding an inquiry into sudden deaths in particular situations and does so by holding an inquest, a legal inquiry into the causes and circumstances of the death.

The Coroner is involved in all cases of sudden death not just road collision deaths.  Following a road collision the Coroner will open an inquest to record the death and identify the deceased but the inquest is then adjourned until the police investigation and their own enquiries are completed.

The inquest is held to establish the causes and circumstances of a road death (who died, when, where and how).  It is not about determining blame. Criminal or civil courts are where liability for the collision is decided.

What is a post-mortem?

A post-mortem is a medical examination of a body carried out at a hospital to find out more about the cause of death. You cannot choose whether there is a post mortem, but if you have religious or other strong objections you can tell the Coroner. Following the post-mortem the Coroner will release the interim death certificate or death certificate.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is a legal inquiry into the causes and circumstances of the death and will be conducted by the Coroner who is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating sudden deaths.

What is an interim death certificate?

The Coroner will issue an interim death certificate if there is going to be an inquest or criminal court proceedings. He or she will also issue permission for the funeral to go ahead. The interim death certificate can be used to notify asset holders and other organisations of the death and to make an application for probate.

A full death certificate is released at the conclusion of the inquest or criminal court proceedings. At this stage the death can be registered.

When will the body be released?

Until the Coroner issues the interim death certificate or death certificate he or she will not release the body to the family or next of kin. Once this has happened you will be able to decide what happens next to your loved one, for example working with the funeral director to organise the funeral.

Should I view the body at the funeral parlour?

Most funeral directors will offer you the opportunity to view or spend time with your loved one.  It can be a shock for people to find that their loved one does not look the same after death and that they feel cold to touch. People differ in their response at this time with some commenting that their loved one looks peaceful, while someone else may struggle to recognise the person they knew.

It is important to ask for what you want at this time. You may want to choose what your loved one will wear and help to dress them, style their hair or help with their make-up.

Should I view the body if it is badly damaged?

In some cases there will be little evidence of external injuries on the body. In other cases the body might be badly damaged. In those instances you may be worried about seeing their body. This is a normal concern.

The hospital or funeral parlour staff may be able to describe the injuries to you so that you can make a decision about whether or not to view your loved one.  For some the visit is a time to say goodbye and seeing the injuries can be easier than living with what you imagined they might have looked like. For others it may feel too distressing to view the body and they may prefer to remember their loved one as they were before the injuries.

Discussing your options with family, friends and hospital or funeral staff may help you to reach the decision that is right for you.

Do we have to have a funeral?

There is a legal requirement in this country that, once a death is certified and registered, the body must be properly taken care of, either by burial or cremation.

How will we pay for the funeral?

If you receive a low income benefit and feel you cannot afford the cost of a funeral you may be able to get a funeral payment.  Full details of this and other benefits can be found by clicking on this link:  https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits

Should the body be cremated or buried?

These questions may already have been decided if there are written instructions in a will, or your loved one had made clear their decision on what they would like to happen to their body when they died.

The sudden, unexpected and untimely nature of death in a road collision often means that these decisions have not been made and it can be difficult to make decisions on behalf of your loved one at this distressing time.

There are no right or wrong answers and if you have no idea what your loved one would have wanted, it can be useful to talk to other family members and friends. The funeral director may also be able to discuss available options with you.

Whatever you choose for your loved one it is important that you know exactly what will happen on the day from travel arrangements and timings to flowers.

What should I do with the cremated remains?

Contrary to popular belief the cremated remains are not ashes, but are dried bone that has been crushed to form an ash like powder. Another decision you will have to make is what to do with these remains and this may be dictated by personal, cultural or religious beliefs.

Your choices may range from keeping the box or urn of cremated remains in your home, scattering them in a designated site or placing them in a memorial vault or garden of remembrance.

The funeral director, your religious leader or local authority will be able to provide you with information on what is possible in your area.

The Inquest (applicable to road death only)

What is the purpose of an inquest?

The Coroner’s role is to answer 4 questions, namely:

  • Who died
  • Where they died
  • When they died and
  • How they died
Can the Coroner blame someone for the death?

No.  Legislation specifically prohibits findings of civil liability or criminal liability.  The inquest is a fact finding exercise.

Why is there a long time between the death and the inquest?

The Coroner depends upon the police to complete their investigations, which can be extensive and time consuming.  In some cases the police will be considering a prosecution and so will need to consult with the CPS, which also adds to the delay.

What happens if there is a prosecution?

If the prosecution is for “causing death by….”, then there is unlikely to be an inquest, even if the Defendant is acquitted.  This is because the criminal court will be deemed to have investigated the death.

Occasionally the Coroner will investigate the death if there is an aspect of concern that has not been investigated by the criminal court.  One such example would be if the Defendant was drunk but employed – the Coroner may have concerns as to how an employer lets a drunk employee out on the road.

For non-death prosecutions, e.g. not having insurance, there will always be an inquest.

What information will I have available at the inquest?

The Coroner will generally provide copies of statements and copies of evidence that are relied upon.  It is for you to make that request.

Is there a charge for this information?

No, but if you decide you want it after the inquest, there is a charge.

Am I entitled to a full copy of the police investigation?

Not from the Coroner.  The police charge for that and you have to approach them direct for a full copy.  Instead the Coroner will release an overview.

Will I be able to ask the witnesses questions?

Yes.  The Coroner asks the questions of each witness initially and then you can ask questions.  The questions have to be relevant, which is generally defined by referring back to the 4 questions (i.e. who died, when, where and how they died).  Questions relating to blame will not be allowed.

It is best to write your questions down before the inquest as some find the inquest emotionally challenging.  Hopefully, the Coroner will have asked your questions.  If you are worried about asking questions, you can send your questions to the Coroner a few days before the inquest.

Will I be able to give evidence?

It is best if you approach the Coroner well before the inquest and you will be given guidance.

Can I say something about the deceased?

The Coroner welcomes statements about the deceased in life.  Those will generally be read.

Can I have a copy of the recording?

Yes.  There is a fee to pay.

Do I need a solicitor?

You don’t need a solicitor as the Coroner will guide you through the process.  If you want a solicitor you are entitled to have one.  Ask them if they have acted at an inquest before.  Legal aid is not available and we cannot give you any guidance on fees.

Is there any support on the day?

The Coroner has volunteer support at the inquest who will answer your questions and guide you through the process.  If necessary, they will sit with you in the inquest.

If you have a FLO (Family Liaison Officer), they will probably attend to support you.

If you are being assisted by RVT, they will accompany you to the inquest and provide support.