If an armed forces injury has set you back, we'll help you move forward
Service members can be at risk if the most serious injuries, including combat-related injuries, training accidents and or psychological trauma.
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by illness or injury while serving in the UK's armed forces, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
You can make an armed forces injury compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor.
In this article
You are not alone
There were 18,386 reported health &safety Incidents in the British armed forces in 2021/22.(assets.publishing.service.gov.uk).
Military service brings obvious risks. Nevertheless, all members of the Army, the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines have a right to protection from unnecessary and avoidable risk and danger.
The Ministry of Defence has a responsibility to take reasonable steps provide a safe working environment, just as other employers do.
Historically, it was difficult to claim compensation for some injuries sustained while serving in the military. Recent legislation has made it easier for many to receive compensation for their injuries. The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme processed 6,377 successful claims between in 2019/20, and awarded £79.9 million in compensation.
If you decide to make an injury claim, your personal injury solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you need to move forward.
Can you claim compensation?
If you have been injured when serving in the armed forces, the process for claiming compensation differs from that of a normal personal injury claim.
There are two main routes to compensation for an injury or illness sustained while serving in the armed forces. These are:
- through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), or
- making a civil claim
The AFCS is a non-fault process, meaning that it only needs to be demonstrated that the injury or illness was caused in the course of the injured party's service.
Blame or fault does not need to be proved. This is useful if it is not clear who or what caused the accident.
In a civil claim, it is necessary to show who was at fault, that they owed the injured party a duty of care, and that the injury or illness was caused by their negligence.
Using the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS)
The AFCS time limits for a claim to be lodged with Veterans UK (formerly the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency) is 7 years from the date of the accident.
If an injury or illness only becomes apparent some years later, after a diagnosis, or you realise they were as a result of service some time later, a claim must be made within 3 years of this discovery.
The AFCS provides compensation for pain and suffering only, according to fixed tariffs. In the most serious of cases this may be paid in the form of a guaranteed monthly payment for life following discharge.
The AFCS covers injuries or illnesses caused after 6th April 2005.
Time limits for armed forces injury compensation claims
If your injuries or illness were caused before this date you can still make a claim, but through the War Pension Scheme. The Veterans Agency offers more information on this route.
Serving personnel can also claim through the AFCS.
Making a civil claim
As with other personal injury claims, you have three years from the date of the injury, or your discovery of the injury.
In addition to general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity, civil claim can include claims for treatment, ongoing care, lost earnings and any other expenses associated with the injury.
For injuries suffered in the theatre of war, it is not usually possible to make a civil claim. There are examples where decisions made by Government on issues such as supply of equipment may cause the injuries to occur, and it may be possible to make a claim under such circumstances.
Claiming compensation for injuries sustained in a combat scenario can be complex. Quittance's specialist solicitors will be able to provide clear and confidential advice if you decide to take this further.
Which route to compensation should you choose?
There are benefits and downsides to either route, and the best choice for you will depend on your circumstances and the nature of your injury.
Seek the advice of an expert solicitor who will advise you on how your claim could be made and what the implications and possibilities are.
Can you claim through both routes?
It is possible to make a claim through both the AFCS and civil routes, but you will not receive 'double' compensation. The higher of the two awards or settlements would be paid.
More Armed Forces injury claims advice
If you have any questions and would like more detailed advice from a specialist solicitor, call Quittance on 0800 376 1001 or request a callback for a confidential free consultation.
Territorial Army and Reservist compensation claims
Anyone joining the Army Reserve or Territorial Army (TA) knows they could be called out to serve on operations, in UK or abroad, for anything up to 12 months.
Reservists may find themselves serving in circumstances that are as dangerous to those faced by the Regular Army.
The Army has a responsibility to all its soldiers (including reservists) to provide as much protection as reasonably possible, looking after their health and safety interests whilst engaged on active duty. This duty includes ensuring soldiers receive full training and equipment which is fit for purpose.
If you were injured or became ill while serving as a reservist or member of the TA, you may be able to make an armed forces injury claim.
Injured in the line of duty
Compensation may be claimed for any injury or illness that happened as a result of the claimant's service, in the course of carrying out their duty. Circumstances can include service-related activities such as training exercises.
Physical injuries may be a result of accidents including parachuting, mountaineering or abseiling as well as road traffic accidents involving military vehicles. They may also be caused by faulty equipment or weapons.
In addition to physical injury, members of the armed forces may be exposed to situations that cause them to sustain psychological illnesses such as depression and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS).
Existing illnesses may also be made worse through service activities. It may, in some cases, also be possible to claim for the consequences of this worsening of symptoms.
Military training compensation claims
Training for the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Army is intended to be strenuous, challenging and difficult in order to improve soldiers' fitness and stamina, and prepare them for war.
This need, however, does not mean that the armed services are exempt from the same health and safety regulations as other employers. If a soldier is injured during military training, they may be able to make a compensation claim.
Due to the nature of military training, injuries and illness are diverse. The kinds of injuries that could be claimed for include:
- Illness due to exposure - if personnel are required to camp outdoors without necessary equipment to keep them warm
- Back injury - if soldiers are not trained fully on the safe way to carry heavy objects such as rucksacks or weaponry
- Broken bones - as a result of damaged or faulty equipment such as assault courses, parachutes and explosives
- Wounds due to improper training on the safe use of weapons, explosives and equipment
If you were injured during military training, due to another party's negligence, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
Clinical negligence claims in the military
Medical, dental and related support services are provided to service personnel by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the National Health Service (NHS) through Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MDHU) - military healthcare facilities, embedded within a civilian hospital or NHS hospital, under the umbrella of the Defence Medical Services (DMS)
Encompassing the entire medical, dental, nursing, allied health professionals, paramedical and support personnel, the primary role of the DMS is to promote, protect and restore the health of service personnel to ensure that they are ready and medically fit to go where they are required in the UK and throughout the world.
Working alongside civil servants and other supporting units, personnel from all 3 services - regulars and reserves - provide healthcare to service personnel in the UK, abroad, at sea; and in some circumstances family dependants of service personnel and entitled civilians.
The DMS is headed by the Surgeon General, whose responsibilities include:
- setting the overall direction on all clinical matters relating to the practice of military medicine
- setting and auditing the professional performance of all military medical personnel
- setting clinical and medical policies and standards, and auditing compliance by military organisations across defence
- providing a comprehensive healthcare system that achieves the appropriate timely healthcare to service and other entitled personnel
Can I claim compensation for medical negligence serving in the armed forces?
Medical care provided by the DMS is generally of a very high standard.
A patient may, however, receive the wrong treatment for his condition, or treatment may be delayed through misdiagnosis or a healthcare professional failing to carry out adequate tests to identify an injury. A patient's health may further deteriorate as a result, or recovery may take much longer.
If your treatment fell below medically acceptable standards, and directly caused you harm, then you may be able to bring a claim for clinical negligence.
Your right to claim exists whether you were treated by a medical professional employed by the MOD or by the NHS. It also applies whether the original accident (the reason why your treatment was required) happened during active operations or not.
How could compensation help you?
The Courts recognise that injuries can significantly affect both an injured person and their dependants.
In the case of civil claims, our network of specialist expert solicitors have a track record of securing compensation awards:
- for pain and suffering and loss of amenity
- to reimburse any medical expenses such as physiotherapy
- to reimburse any other expenses or damage to personal property
- to cover any loss of earnings including those anticipated in the future
How we can help your claim
Guiding injured parties to a successful outcome, Quittance's specialist solicitors have supported military and ex-military personnel in a wide range of cases.
Support can include obtaining highly-specialised medical evidence, arranging treatment, rehabilitation and ongoing care and advising on options for retraining in new skills to pursue a new career.
Quittance's solicitors have assisted with many military injury claims. Some of the common types of injury sustained in the services are:
- Injuries caused by inadequate training
- Injuries resulting from negligent instructions from a superior officer
- Equipment failure during training and combat situations
- Fast-roping injuries
- Fire and explosive accidents
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Cold injuries
- Road traffic accidents and other vehicle-related incidents
How a compensation settlement is calculated in a civil claim
Recommendations for general damages awards are made by the Judicial College and published in personal injury awards guidelines. These guidelines are reviewed on a regular basis. These awards are calculated in relation to the nature and severity of an injury. They are set out in the form of upper and lower values for a specific injury.
Neck injuries resulting in severe muscle damage, for example, should receive general damages of between £36,740 an £45,265, according to the guidelines.
Allowing for special cases, these recommendations are generally followed and most insurers and solicitors will refer to the guidelines when calculating compensation for an accident or illness.
In matters where an existing condition or injury has been exacerbated as a result of the illness or accident, it could be possible to claim for compensation too.
In civil claims, lost earnings (including future loss of earnings while you are unable to work), expenses resulting from the accident or illness, and medical treatment costs may be claimed for in many cases, and are referred to as special damages.
What is the likelihood of winning your claim for compensation?
An AFCS claim is no-fault, meaning that you do not need to prove who caused your injuries. It only needs to be demonstrated that the injuries occurred in the course of your service. For this reason, an AFCS claim may have a better chance of success than claiming through the civil route.
To win a civil claim, you must show that another party, e.g. the MoD, was the cause of your injury.
The claim has a good chance of success if the other side has acknowledged their responsibility for the accident or illness.
If the defendant will not acknowledge that they were at fault, or insists that you were partly responsible, you may be less likely to succeed in your claim.
You should, therefore, do whatever you can to strengthen your claim. Your solicitor will advise on a recommended course of action.
The first thing you should do after suffering an injury is to report it following the appropriate procedure and seek medical attention.
In addition to aiding recovery, treatment also provides important records of your initial injuries which can be used by your solicitor and medical expert later to help document your claim.
You can also:
- gather statements and contact details from witnesses
- take photos of the scene of the accident if possible
- report the accident to the appropriate authorities
These steps are still worth taking even if some time has passed since the injury was sustained.
How we can help you with your injury claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.
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About the author
Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.