An article in the Exeter Express and Echo on 8 September covers the story of Ray Lowrie, a Royal Marine chosen to represent Britain in the Invictus Games. Ray suffered a serious ankle injury whilst on exercise in Norway which ultimately lead to his leg being amputated.
Ray’s story is inspirational and one that exemplifies the sheer courage and will to succeed that many of those who have been severely injured in the Armed Forces seem to possess in abundance. The fact that so many badly injured military service personnel go on to represent their country demonstrates their calibre and determination.
The article also mentions the fact that Ray has managed to secure interim payments from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to pay for an adapted bungalow to help him live independently.
The MOD is one of the largest single employers in the UK and, like any other employer, it is responsible for the health and safety of it soldiers, sailors and aircrew whilst at work both home and abroad. Anyone suffering an injury caused by negligence or breach of statutory duty whilst working for the MOD can make a claim for compensation.
Armed Forces accident cases have been widely publicised recently given our military commitments around the globe and particularly in Afghanistan.
There is one major exception relating to cases where armed forces service personnel are injured in the course of fighting in a war zone. This may seem obvious where a soldier is injured or killed by enemy fire but not so clear when troops are injured as a result of the actions of their fellow soldiers.
However, there are some significant grey areas where injury claims have been brought, particularly where there was no actual fighting in progress. These cases include several serious road traffic accidents in Afghanistan and Iraq, a sergeant shot in a negligent discharge on a rifle range and aircrew killed in a helicopter accident en route to operations.
Other claims that are underway relate to decisions made far away from the battlefield, for example providing the troops with adequate protective equipment and the fitting of military vehicles and aircraft with appropriate levels of protection.
There are often difficulties in obtaining evidence in such cases not least because of where the incidents occurred and the frequent problems of locating witnesses and files. Lawyers need to be familiar with armed forces service regulations and sources of information. They also need to know about terms of service, accommodation claims, flying and diving pay and submarine and special forces allowances to name but a few further issues.
The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme was recently introduced to provide awards to injured service personnel. The advantage of the scheme is that negligence or breach of duty does not need be proved, but the disadvantages include a tariff system, limited expenses awards and no legal costs. Tactically it can be worthwhile making an immediate claim under the scheme whilst a full negligence claim is investigated and a specialist military claims Lawyer can advise you on both.
This is a whistle-stop tour of what can be quite a complex area of law. If you require further information please contact Slater and Gordon Lawyer Richard Gaffney who specialises in military accident cases and served in the army for ten years.
Richard Gaffney is a Partner and Serious Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Cambridge.
For a free consultation call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help you.
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