Avonmouth explosion – what happens now?

Coroners Court Sign

When tragedies such as the explosion at Avonmouth happen, the implications can be far-reaching. It has been reported that the Health and Safety Executive will need to investigate, and this often happens alongside an investigation by the police, who will consider whether there is any criminal responsibility.

This is often helpful to the families of those who were tragically killed, as they will hopefully gain a better understanding of what happened and feel that individuals or organisations have been held to account. However, these investigations can often take a significant period of time to conclude.

Inquests will be held

It is unfortunately the case that Inquests, which are often held following incidents such as this, do not take place until after any criminal prosecution has concluded. This adds further time to the process which can be incredibly difficult for families.

The purpose of an inquest is to find out what circumstances led to and caused an individual’s death. The Coroner may ask witnesses to attend to give evidence about what happened so that the circumstances can be properly explored and understood. Family members can also attend and should have the ability to ask questions and consider the relevant paperwork. Inquests can be stressful, but with the right support, they can be of considerable help to families.

Find out more about inquests and how they work in our client guide to inquests.

The police will investigate

After the police have investigated, they will report to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will decide whether any of the individuals or organisations involved should be prosecuted for a criminal offence.

Only after each of these investigations, including the Inquest, have been concluded can the family begin to consider whether there is any civil responsibility.

Bereaved families may need to bring a civil claim for compensation

Those tragically injured and killed in the Avonmouth explosion were employees who made an important contribution to their families in financial terms. The loss of their contribution to the family finances can often add significantly to the pressure and stress their loved ones are already experiencing, especially if they were the main breadwinner and the family were reliant on their income to meet day to day household expenses.

The purpose of a civil claim is to recover financial compensation for families, to reflect the ongoing financial contribution the individual would have made to the family, had they not died. A civil claim is limited in its scope. It cannot address the emotional loss experienced but it can enable loved ones to make good the financial loss that they have suffered. Any claim will consider their earnings and contribution to the household in terms of childcare and upkeep of their home. Although nothing can change what has happened, financial compensation can assist by providing financial security for partners and children left behind.

How we can help

It is important that families get the right representation throughout these investigations. Enable Law can advise on the criminal investigation, inquests and ultimately run any civil claim for compensation. We are here to help families navigate the process which we know can seem very daunting. We understand the complex emotions that accompany investigations following someone’s death and support families to ensure their voices are heard.