A guide to making a No Win No Fee air force accident claim
Members of the RAF, with certain exceptions, are entitled to the same protection as the civilian population when it comes to claiming compensation for injuries and illnesses they sustain whilst going about their duties.
The Ministry of Defence, like any employer, has a duty to ensure that the proper safety measures are taken to minimise the risk of an accident occurring, whether on the ground or in the air. Where those measures are not taken, and injury is suffered as a result, the injured party may be entitled to armed forces injury compensation.
There are two main routes to claiming compensation for an injury or illness sustained while serving in the Air Force. The first is by making a civil personal injury claim. The second is to seek compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS).
Common air force injury claims
Members of the Royal Air Force may be exposed to the same type of risks in the course of their service as civilian workers, as well as risks that are specific to military service. These include:
- Slip, trip and fall accidents
- Defective equipment accidents
- Manual handling accidents
- Noise-induced hearing loss, for example, from the excessive noise of aircraft taking off and ordnance being used
- Cancers caused by exposure to hazardous materials such as asbestos.
This list is not exhaustive. Any member of the Royal Air Force who suffers an accident or illness as a result of their service may be eligible to claim compensation.
The only exception is if the injury occurred while engaging the enemy or while preparing for combat in war or warlike conditions. In conflict situations, the right to claim compensation against the MOD may be suspended under certain circumstances.
Combat immunity only applies where the injury was sustained as a direct result of the combat. Situations that are unrelated to the combat itself, such as injuries caused by defective equipment, are not generally caught by the provisions of combat immunity.
Making a civil claim against the Ministry of Defence
All employers, including the MOD, have a legal duty to protect their employees in the workplace. In the context of the Air Force, this includes ensuring:
- Service personnel have the property equipment to carry out their duties safely
- Flight and other equipment is maintained to the highest standards of repair and safety
- The work environment is kept in a safe condition to avoid slip, trip and fall hazards, or, for example, the blockage of emergency escape routes
- Service personnel are trained to lift and carry items safely, to avoid a manual handling injury
- Safety clothing and personal protective equipment such as hard hats, goggles, ear guards, breathing apparatus, heavy duty gloves and high-visibility jackets is provided where necessary
- Full training and supervision is given for all tasks and especially those with a higher-than-usual risk of accident, such as flight training and parachute activities
- Work schedules and resource allocations are properly monitored so that service personnel do not have to work for fatigue-inducing periods of time.
To make a successful claim, it must be shown that the MOD was negligent in some way, and their negligence caused the Claimant's injuries. If negligence can be proven, the claim could be dealt with in the same way a member of the public would make an work accident claim against their employer.
No-fault accident compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
If the accident occurred after 6th April 2005, it may also be possible to make a claim via the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme. The AFCS is a no-fault scheme, which means that the Claimant does not have to show that the MOD was negligent.
Strict eligibility criteria and time limits apply, so it is important to follow the scheme rules. Read more about the AFCS here.
Choosing a route to compensation
In some circumstances, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation via the AFCS and still make a civil claim for damages. It is not possible to receive "double" compensation, however. The higher of the two settlements would usually be paid, and generally a civil claim will be the higher.
There are pros and cons to either route.
The best choice will depend on the Claimant's personal circumstances and the nature of the injury. An experienced solicitor can provide full and confidential advice on how the claim could be made and what the implications are in each case.
No Win, No Fee agreements and air force accident claims
No Win, No Fee agreements, also known as CFAs or "Conditional Fee Agreements", form the beginning of the majority of claims.
A CFA details the work the solicitor will provide and the success fee. This will be the percentage to be taken from your total compensation once the case is successful.
You will be able to prioritise your rest and recovery, knowing that there will be nothing to pay at the outset. You have absolutely no hidden costs when choosing a a Quittance solicitor.
What should happen next?
Before you instruct a solicitor, ensure you have as much information about the process as you need to make an informed decision about whether to make a claim. Read more in our FAQ section.
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