Military Fatal Accident Negligence Claims
Bolt Burdon Kemp’s military claims solicitors are highly experienced at pursuing claims for accidental death in the military brought about by negligence.
Our team has seen how devastating it is for families to lose a loved one in a military accident and how the financial security of those left behind can be severely threatened.
Accidental death in the military
Negligent accidental deaths in the military have many causes. These include:
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Unsafe working practices
- Inadequate training
- Medical negligence
- Heat injury
If a member of your family has died after an accident in the military and you suspect negligence contributed to it, then contact us as soon as possible.
What happens after an accidental death in the military?
As a matter of service law and policy, the MoD will almost always carry out a thorough investigation into the death of a serviceman or woman if:
- The death was unnatural
- Anything “of consequence” to the regular or reserve forces will be learned from an inquiry, and:
- That information cannot not easily be gleaned from the circumstances of death
In theory, if the civilian police are also investigating, it is not mandatory for a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to be convened, but policy states that one will be held if lessons can be learned.
If the deceased was a civilian, policy dictates that a BOI must be held if “lessons of consequence” may be learned and the explanation of the death is not obvious from its circumstances. This is true if:
- The death occurred on or in an MoD unit, ship or establishment, and is either:
- Work-related, or
- Occurs during a service-related activity, including welfare and education work abroad, if these were provided by the MoD
MoD policy acknowledges that one function of a BOI is to satisfy all concerned parties, including the deceased’s family, that the relevant lessons have been learned.
The MoD must also report all deaths that arise out of or are connected with work to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This requirement also includes the deaths of people who are not at the time workers, or working. The accident is counted as being work-related if a significant role was played by:
- The way the work was carried out
- Any machinery, plant, substances or equipment used in the work
- The condition of the site or premises where the accident happened
We have found that the HSE’s investigations are very thorough, and provide invaluable information for the family. The investigations are independent of the MoD and the HSE has the right by law to require answers to the difficult questions that must be asked after a death in service.
The MoD is bound by health and safety law in the same way as any other employer and, although it cannot be brought in front of a criminal court by the HSE, there is an alternative procedure that has a similar effect.
If the HSE considers that the MoD had broken the law in a way that, had it not been exempt from prosecution, would have led to a conviction, it can issue a Crown censure.
This is effectively a declaration that the MoD has broken the law in a way that is equivalent to a criminal offence.
Inquest into the death
An independent civilian inquest is also carried out. It is designed to identify the cause of death, the identity of the deceased and the manner in which he or she died.
Its function is not to apportion blame, although the law requires the Coroner to investigate the truth “fully, fairly and fearlessly”, as Lord Justice Bingham put it in the case of R v HM Coroner for North Humberside and Scunthorpe ex parte Jamieson  1 QB 1, 26.
In many cases involving the MoD, the Coroner will decide that a full inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the death is also appropriate. This is known as an Article 2 inquest, because the Coroner’s power to conduct it derives from Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Coroner will require the MoD to disclose all relevant information, and will have access to any reports from the HSE or other bodies, such as hospitals, that could assist. The family will usually have the right to see the documents.
The MoD’s Defence Inquest Unit is responsible for communicating with the coroners and the service police on behalf of the MoD, but the family is entitled to its own lawyers.
If you have been affected by a negligent death in the military, contact our team today to discuss the possibility of making a claim.