Non-Freezing Cold Injury: When can I bring a legal claim?

June 8, 2020

Posted by: Hannah Swarbrick


At Bolt Burdon Kemp we are regularly contacted by service personnel and veterans who have suffered Non-Freezing Cold Injury (NFCI) whilst serving in the armed forces, who were not made aware that they had any rights to bring a legal claim until many years after their injury.

In order to bring a legal claim you must be able to prove that your injury was the result of negligence i.e. that someone else was at fault.  Suffering a NFCI is not enough in its own right to give rise to a legal claim in negligence.

The Ministry of Defence has its own policy on how to prevent a NFCI which can be found here.

Claims can often be brought where there has been a failure to:

  • Provide someone with kit to keep them warm in cold weather;
  • Provide training and/or a health and safety briefing on how to avoid NFCI and recognise symptoms;
  • Remove someone from an exercise where they have reported symptoms of NFCI.

For a description of the symptoms of NFCI please see my colleague’s helpful blog.

Time Limits

The time limit for bringing a legal claim is 3 years from the date of the NFCI.

The exact date of injury is not always easy to identify where someone has been out in cold conditions over a long period of time and/or may have been exposed to cold conditions whilst out on exercises over several years.

The easiest way to identify when an injury has happened is to look at the medical records.

But in some cases someone may have been delayed in seeing their doctor or their symptoms may not have been properly recorded in the medical records.

A diagnosis of NFCI can be delayed because tests are often needed before the diagnosis is confirmed.  These tests might include an infrared thermography or a skin biopsy.

In some very limited circumstances, it might be possible to bring a claim where it has been more than 3 years since the NFCI, if there have been many occasions when someone has not been properly protected from the cold.

It is important that you seek legal advice as early as possible if you have suffered or think you might have suffered a NFCI.  In order to take legal advice from a solicitor you do not need to:

  • Wait until your condition has been diagnosed at the Institute of Naval Medicine or anywhere else;
  • Wait until you have left the military;
  • Wait until you have been awarded compensation from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme;

It is very important not to delay speaking to a solicitor because of the time limit that applies.  The longer the delay the more likely it is that it will not be possible to bring a claim.

Our solicitors will be very happy to discuss the details of your claim so please get in touch if you or a loved one has been injured.

Hannah Swarbrick is an associate in the Military Claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp.  If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, you can contact Hannah free of charge and in confidence on 0207 288 4851 or at hannahswarbrick@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the team will contact you.  Find out more about the Military Claims team.

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Posted by: Hannah Swarbrick

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