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Off-duty accidents involving Armed Forces personnel

At Irwin Mitchell, solicitors in our dedicated military injuries team have had the privilege to represent service personnel in a variety of personal injury claims against the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It is often recognised that men and women enlist into the Armed Forces knowing that they may face dangerous aspects of their job.

Impact of off-duty accidents

What is often not considered or documented particularly well in terms of statistics, is the impact that an off-duty accident might have on a service man or woman’s life and military career. Such accidents may involve a road traffic accident, involving a negligent driver injuring another road user or pedestrian, a trip or fall as a result of a poorly maintained pavement or road, or where the person was under the care of a third party such as a hospital or visiting public premises.

Where such accidents happened, it is highly recommended that any member of the Armed Forces seeks legal advice from a solicitor with expertise in military claims. Even where the accident takes place off-duty, due to the nature of these claims and potential damages, a solicitor lacking in expertise may result in the injured person losing out on losses which are, in contrast to a civilian claimant, very different.

Reasons for instructing a specialist MOD claims solicitor

The key difference lies in the loss of service career and the physical demands and medical standards within the military, are such that many of our clients face devastation when they have been medically downgraded or discharged. Even in cases of medical downgrading, the promotional structure and nature of the Armed Forces is such that a downgrading of anything exceeding 12 months will have a knock-on effect on the rest of their career and may result in them not achieving their desired rank by their End of Engagement Date (EED). This not only carries with it an impact on salary, but also the overall pension.

In addition to the claim itself, we are fortunate enough to work with in-house support and rehabilitation coordinators who are able to help our clients in order to set up a rehabilitation and support network to enable them to get their help whilst they are waiting for their claims to conclude. Due to the nature of civil claims, these can take several years to conclude and for military clients especially, this service is invaluable where they have potentially lost out on a well-established medical and rehabilitation system within the military.

A recent case example

The Irwin Mitchell military team recently represented an Army officer who was involved in an off-duty road traffic collision, where she sustained life changing orthopaedic injuries. The severity of the injuries resulted in the officer facing medical discharge in the future. Following an early admission of liability, our team were able to obtain interim payments from the defendant's insurer that put in place a rehabilitation and care package that provided significant support to the claimant and her family. Being able to gather the right expert evidence and using their expertise our team settled this matter, out of court, for £1million.

Additional factors

There are some further areas which should be considered where off-duty accidents have occurred:

  • If, in the case of a road traffic accident, the negligent driver’s insurer makes an offer very early on in an attempt to settle the case early, it's strongly advised that before accepting this or signing anything, that you should seek legal advice from an independent solicitor with a background in military claims so that your claim can be appropriately quantified.
  • If you're medically discharged, you face losing out on some of the common service benefits, such as medical and dental care, gym memberships and Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA).
  • The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) does not provide any compensation for off-duty injuries.

Military clients deserve to receive specialist advice to ensure that they are fully compensated regardless of whether this was an off-duty accident or not.

If you're a serving member of the Armed Forces and have any questions relating to a potential personal injury claim, more on Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting injured Armed Forces personnel can be found at our military injuries section.