02 April 2014
Work Accidents Kill More Soldiers than Battle
A Daily Mirror article on 31 March quotes figures revealing that accidents have killed more troops than battle over the last decade.
The vast majority of these fatalities involve road accidents although suicides also comprise a significant percentage of non combat injuries.
Whether the death was in combat or not, of course, the fall out is equally disturbing for those left behind.
Undoubtedly a number of these accidents were caused by the negligence of others. In such circumstances military service families can pursue a remedy against their employer (MoD), just like any other employee.
Indeed figures disclosed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) suggest that in 2012/2013 - 9 out of 10 of the most serious claims resulting in compensation of over £500,000 or more were non combat related.
Combat related injuries are a major exception to the normal rules, and the MoD can usually rely on a defence of combat immunity. However, there are some significant grey areas here, in particular, in relation to accidents in combat zones that have not occurred under fire. Such claims can include road traffic accidents, negligent discharges, accidents in transit and the provision of protective equipment and the fitting of vehicles and aircraft with appropriate levels of equipment.
Where combat immunity is not an issue, it still remains essential to prove that there has been fault. Thus many successful accident claims have been brought in the UK, and elsewhere involving servicemen and women whilst adventure training, on exercise or in camp.
There are nearly always difficulties in bringing such claims, not least because of frequent problems locating witnesses and files. Lawyers who deal with military accident claims need to be familiar with sources of further information such as Joint Service Transport Regulations, Unit and Board of Inquiry reports etc.
In serious injury cases it's important to establish how long the injured service person could have remained in the Armed Forces and to be aware of additional claims such as loss of free accommodation, free food at sea, flying, diving and Special Forces pay etc.
Other complications surround the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme which does provide some redress but importantly may under compensate.
Richard Gaffney is a Personal Injury Lawyer specialising in serious injuries at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Cambridge. Richard spent eleven years as an officer in the Armed Forces prior to becoming a Solicitor.
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