I recently concluded a case for a former member of HM Armed Forces. My client, from Malawi and with a rich family history of military service, enlisted with the British Army in 2013. He served as an infantryman based in Inverness.
Unfortunately, in November 2015 during a training exercise in Brecon, my client suffered injury while “playing enemy” for the commandos. The weather at the time was terrible. The bitterly harsh conditions exposed my client to a risk of non-freezing cold injury. This is a neurological condition affecting, most commonly, the hands and feet, following exposure to the cold.
By day 7 of the 11-day exercise my client was reporting that his hands and feet had become numb, and he felt pins and needles type stabbing pains. These are obvious symptoms of non-freezing cold injury. If the injured person is not protected from ongoing cold exposure the condition can and often does get worse. Depending on the stage of the condition it can be permanent.
My client reported that his chain of command ignored his complaints in the field, and he continued on until the end. He was seen in the medical centre afterwards and the doctor made the appropriate referral for further testing. On testing the condition was confirmed and a formal diagnosis given. Both my client’s feet and his right hand were considered to have non-freezing cold injury.
There were restrictions placed on my client for the rest of his time in service. He found his condition particularly onerous given the climate where he was based. There was no improvement on further testing and the Ministry of Defence took the decision to discharge him on medical grounds.
My client had a strong case on liability. Several witnesses confirmed the conditions were cold and the attendees struggled with limited kit and limited protection from the elements. The Ministry of Defence had already acknowledged the injury in paying a minimal award to my client under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.
Upon the medical experts finalising their evidence, the parties exchanged reports and the MOD invited us to a settlement meeting. It was several months before trial but the evidence was in effect complete and the parties were able to reach resolution.
My client received a further award for his injuries and was compensated for his lost earnings had he remained in service. He also received damages for the extra cold weather clothing he now must buy, plus an allowance towards additional heating at home and a sum to compensate for his partner needing to undertake many of the household tasks which would otherwise expose my client to further cold and potentially worsen his condition.
Overall, my client was very satisfied with the outcome in the circumstances. He would not have volunteered to leave service, but sadly the circumstances gave him no choice other than to accept medical discharge. He was pleased that this was recognised and to be appropriately compensated for his loss.
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