If you sustain an injury during service in the United Kingdom Armed Forces, there are two avenues which you can follow in order to claim compensation.
Most commonly, military personnel choose to instruct a specialist accident claim solicitor and make a personal injury in the same way as a civilian through the county court. However, some choose to make use of the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS), an initiative which was introduced to replace the War Pensions Scheme back in 2005. Through the AFCS, members of the Armed Forces (or family members claiming on their behalf) are able to make ‘no fault’ compensation claims following injuries sustained in service.
Armed Forces Compensation Scheme – its limitations
The purpose of the scheme was to reduce the number of military injury claims going through the already congested county courts – and to this end, the scheme can be judged largely to have been a success. However, there are major flaws with the scheme, the most notable of which is that military personnel are unlikely to receive the maximum amount of compensation they are entitled to and are which they are more likely to receive by making a compensation claim in the county court. The AFCS uses an inflexible 15-point scale to classify injuries, which means that the individual circumstances of a military injury are not taken into account when determining the size of the payout. Therefore, despite the fact that a comprehensive range of injuries of varying seriousness are recognised by the scheme, the compensation payouts are formulaic and often insufficient.
Perhaps the clearest indicator of the very real limitations of the AFCS is the £570,000 claims ceiling. No matter how serious the injuries are, the AFCS will never pay out more than this figure, and considering that compensation for the most serious accidents heard in the county court can result in seven-figure payouts, this limit can mean compensation payments are very meagre indeed. It seems as though crucial considerations are being overlooked by the AFCS such as loss of earnings due to forced retirement, loss of pension entitlement, the cost of adapting living quarters and the cost of medical treatment. Payments for these kind of losses or expenses are accounted for in any county court injury claim payout.
One of, if not the only, advantages the AFCS has over making a claim in a civilian court, is that it does allow claimants up to 7 years in which to file a claim – in contrast to which county courts have a strictly enforced. three-year limitation period, after which time, unless there are exceptional circumstances, any accident victim will lose their right to make a compensation claim entirely. Even here however, there can be a problem with the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme – in practice, it appears that Armed Forces members are often are told by the military that they have 7 years in which to make their claim, which is, of course ,true in so far as it relates to any claim made under the AFCS, only to discover that the county court deadline has passed in that time.
Tim Bishop senior partner of Bonallack and Bishop – specialist solicitors with expertise in military medical negligence and injury claims. Call them on 01722 422300 or for more information visit their specialist website at http://military-lawyer.co.uk