LONDON, October 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
An expert in personal injury claims involving serving and former military personnel has stressed that a successful claim under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme does not prevent an injured victim from also making a claim against the Ministry of Defence.
Mark McGhee, a military claims specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that whilst the compensation provided to members of the Armed Forces by the AFCS was vital, it was also important that personnel understood their rights to pursue further damages in the civil court.
"It is very important that service personnel understand that the AFCS is not a substitution for bringing a claim against the Ministry of Defence (MoD)," said Mark, a partner with the firm. "Their entitlement to claim damages under the AFCS does not preclude them from also making a claim against the MoD," he said. "In fact in some cases by pursuing a claim against the MoD, the claimant feels they are highlighting the negligence they feel occurred and that injuries, illnesses or deaths were suffered as a result."
Mark said the AFCS was a vital first point of call for injured personnel, providing immediate access to much-needed funds in many cases, but said it was crucial that members of the Armed Forces understood how the scheme worked. "All current and former members of the Armed Forces, including Reservists, can make a claim under the AFCS if they have suffered any illness, injury or death as a result of their service on or after 6 April 2005," he said.
"There is no pre-requisite for them to have left the Armed Forces before making a claim as serving members can still apply. The no-fault scheme means payment is made without admitting fault and covers everything from catastrophic, life-changing operational injuries, to minor fractures and mental health disorders.
"Claims can be submitted for any injuries, illnesses or deaths caused by service-related activities including, physical exercises, organised sport such as inter-service athletics and adventurous training (AT)," added Mark. "Accidents can naturally occur at any time but injuries are often prevalent during hazardous activities such as weapons and assault course training, fast-roping, mountaineering and parachuting as well as through incidents arising due to road traffic collisions, aviation accidents and equipment failures."
There are two main types of AFCS benefits for injuries and/or illness claims. These include a tax-free tariff-based lump sum payment for 'pain and suffering' ranging from £1,200 to £570,000 depending on the severity of the injury or illness. For the most serious injuries and illnesses there is also a tax-free, index-linked monthly payment known as a Guaranteed Income Payment (GIP) which is paid from the point of discharge from the Armed Forces for the duration of the recipient's life. GIP payment calculations are based on the lasting effect of more serious injuries on a member's future promotion prospects and their ability to work until retirement age.
In the event of service-related death, the AFCS may pay taxable benefits to eligible partners, including unmarried and same-sex partners who meet certain criteria, in the shape of an income stream known as a Survivors' Guaranteed Income Payment (SGIP) as well as child payments and a bereavement grant of up to £37,500.
"Over the last six years, nearly 30,000 service personnel have filed for compensation under the AFCS to help them cope with combat injuries sustained on operations - more than 20 times the number using the scheme when it was first set up in 2005," said Mark. "Nearly 8,000 of these were made last year alone and when the UK withdraws from Afghanistan next year, it is crucial the government recognises that rather than seeing a reduction in the numbers claiming for 'pain and suffering,' these claims will in fact continue to climb."
Mark said that whilst the AFCS clearly provides valuable assistance to those personnel in most need, he said that a successful application to the scheme did not then rule out further action, if warranted.
"In many of the cases we are seeing, the actual injuries - which is what the AFCS payments are to compensate - are compounded by negligence in the form of failure to diagnose or treat symptoms or conditions, or breach of duty which led directly to the circumstances in which the injury was sustained," said Mark. In those cases, it is entirely appropriate to then investigate the injury and circumstances more fully, with a view to pursuing a civil claim against the MoD.
"Notwithstanding the obvious physical aspects of being injured, any service-related injuries or illnesses can obviously also be extremely distressing in terms of concerns regarding future healthcare and the potential impact on careers, families and pensions," said Mark. "After the huge commitment and sacrifice members of the Armed Forces and their families make, it is absolutely right that injured personnel receive the best support, medical care, rehabilitation and injury compensation that they deserve."
How can Fentons help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for serving or former military personnel.
If you think you have a case which involves a breach of the Military Covenant, or if you require further assistance with any other military claim or personal injury claim, why not call our freephone helpline on 0800 019 1297. Alternatively complete the brief military claim form on our website.