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Injured veterans to be denied access to justice

11 October 2019

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Government plans to block some injured armed forces personnel and veterans from the courts have been condemned as perverse by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). 

In its consultation, Legal Protections for Armed Forces Personnel and Veterans serving in operations outside the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has proposed a ban on injured servicemen and women from being able to claim compensation for injuries sustained more than 10 years ago.

“The MoD’s message is clear. Injured veterans are a burden it wants to shake off as quickly as possible”, said APIL president Gordon Dalyell.

“There is no justification for why the MoD should be excused from its responsibilities to suffering veterans.

“The employers of civilians are held to account, it would be perverse for our veterans and serving personnel to be denied the same access to justice.”

Most personal injury claims, including military claims, must be made within three years. After the three-year time limit expires, a judge has the discretion to decide whether a claim can be allowed to go ahead.

The MoD consultation proposes that after 10 years there should be no such discretion, so injured soldiers would not then be able to bring their claims.

These are not injuries sustained in battle, as Dalyell points out, but needless injuries which could and should be avoided.

He comments: “There are many valid reasons why an injured person might wait ten years before seeking compensation.

“The true damage of post-traumatic stress disorder, or asbestos exposure, for example, can take years to manifest.”

He added: “It’s unthinkable that a wrongdoer could be allowed to say ‘that was a long time ago, you should forget about it’.

“Negligence claims are an important means of highlighting dangers in relation to training and equipment, which ultimately prevents injuries and can save lives, but they are also crucial for the individuals involved who need compensation to put their lives back on track."

In its consultation, the MoD says the wording of the Limitation Act 1980 gives the courts broad discretion whether to allow compensation claims to proceed, even when they have been brought many years later.

This makes it difficult to assess such claims in a fair and proportionate manner as records are rarely sufficiently detailed to be able to disprove specific allegations, and the memories of those involved in incidents fade over time.

It said: “This proposal is not intended to avoid the government being held accountable for injuries or deaths occurring outside the UK.

“It should ensure that claims are brought promptly, enabling them to be assessed in a fair and proportionate manner, and ensuring lessons are learned and applied.”

The consultation can be viewed here.

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Limitation period personal compensation