Peers must drop 'money-saving' 6-year limit on injury claims by military
Injured army veterans will be treated as second class citizens if proposed restrictions to legal rights are not dropped, warns APIL
Injured army veterans will be treated as second class citizens if government fails to drop proposed restrictions to their rights, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said.
The warning comes as peers debate amendments to part two of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill.
APIL said if parts of the Bill remain, injured armed forces personnel and veterans will be treated as second class citizens. One military claims lawyer described the proposals as “a money-saving exercise” by the MOD.
APIL president Sam Elsby said: “An arbitrary and absolute six-year time limit on negligence claims against the Ministry of Defence remains a part of this Bill.”
He said this will mean armed forces personnel injured needlessly during overseas operations will have less legal protection than prisoners in this country.
“Only the Ministry of Defence (MoD) will benefit, as it will escape the responsibility of compensating some of those who are injured through its own negligence,” he commented.
“We reject utterly the continued assertions from ministers that part two of this Bill is beneficial to service personnel and veterans. It is completely without foundation.”
APIL urged peers to support amendments which help safeguards their rights but would allow judicial discretion in such cases.
Elsby highlighted some of the reasons why people are unable to bring claims within the set time limits: “Sometimes they are misinformed about their rights; sometimes, the very nature of the injury can make it impossible to bring a claim on time.
“By the time they are ready to talk and ask for legal help, it could then be too late if this Bill, as drafted, becomes law… They will be denied the justice they deserve, and to which they should have a right,” he commented.
Sophie Khan, a specialist solicitor in army veteran claims, said: “The Bill is not going to change. The Government is going to make the six years' limitation period absolute which puts veterans, and those still in the military, at a disadvantage if they develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after six years.
“Whereas if you or I have a problem, we could simply ask the court to extend the statutory limitation period, if necessary.”
Khan added: “PTSD can be triggered many years after the event. All those who have served will be barred from bringing a claim, if the symptoms appear after six years.”
She commented: “I don’t know why the MOD is doing it other than to save money. It’s basically a money-saving drive by the MOD. They have created a law for themselves and that’s how they want to function. How can they get away with it?”
“They are above the law,” Khan added.