Lawyers Say Give Soldiers Choice Of Independent Legal Action As Well As New No-Fault Scheme
The Ministry of Defence’s consultation on new proposals to limit the ability of injured armed forces personnel to claim against the government has been hit with criticism from former soldiers and their lawyers today.
The Consultation which closes on 23rd February would limit soldiers’ ability to claim for compensation following negligent incidents related to Combat. However there are concerns about its independence and the scope and scale of the scheme leading to fears soldiers will not be properly compensated and lessons may not be learnt from each incident.
The expert Military Injuries Team at Irwin Mitchell which acts on behalf of injured soldiers and the families of people killed while serving in the military has submitted is response to the consultation today. The response outlines a number of concerns about the scheme including how wide the definition of Combat will be and who gets to decide on what is and isn’t included in the scheme.
Expert Opinion“The priority has to be on getting the best outcome for our troops. On occasion that will be compensation provided by the new proposed scheme. In other instances that may be via a civil case against the MoD brought by a specialist legal team on behalf of the injured soldier.
“Rather than excluding soldiers from bringing civil claims against the MoD by legislation, they should give soldiers affected the choice of how they want to proceed. Some may feel they want to enter into the MoD scheme, others may want a more independent view at what has happened to them and may want a lawyer to help investigate for them or advise on the adequacy of the compensation they are offered under the new scheme.
“Of course there are incidents which happen on the battlefield which cannot be foreseen and the MOD has enjoyed Combat Immunity in relation to military operations for many years. But there are also many incidents where the MoD has raised Combat Immunity in situations which have occurred miles away from the enemy such as road accidents and the Consultation paper hints that the scope of what is considered Combat may apply to the UK which is clearly not a battlefield.
“The MoD is proposing that it will decide itself which cases should be covered by Combat Immunity and those solders would be forced into a compensation scheme with no independent view from their own lawyers – this will include other instances of negligence not just those injuries sustained on the battlefield.
“Without full independent scrutiny, where is the incentive for the MoD to ensure that it doesn’t cut costs too far in terms of the quality and scale of equipment available? We have already seen major issues with transport vehicles and body armour in recent years. There are serious concerns that by closing the door to potential legal action, it removes this level of independent scrutiny which keeps our soldiers safe.” Geraldine McCool - Partner
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