AFCS versus Court claims for injured military personnel – dispelling common myths
Serving in the military exposes individuals to a higher level of risk than they would have been exposed to in many other careers. However, a safe working environment is required whatever the circumstances and working in the military is no exception. When that safe environment is breached and an injury occurs there are options available.
Common misconceptions about military claims
It is a common misconception among military personnel that the only way they can get any compensation for an injury they sustain is through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS).
It is also a common misconception that if a claim is pursued through the AFCS that prevents a claim through the civil court.
Both of the above are incorrect and it is important to know what your options are when looking for compensation.
A comparison of the AFCS and civil claims routes
An AFCS award and a civil claim can be pursued at the same time or one after the other. Although you are not entitled to double compensation so only the higher of the two gets paid.
Whilst the AFCS provides for those who do not have a negligence claim, for those that do have a negligence claim, more varied and future facing losses can be pursued in order to recover compensation. However there are important factors to consider and the differences are highlighted below:-
- AFCS is a no fault process – so you only have to establish that the injury was caused in the course of employment. Civil claims need to establish fault, that there was a duty of care and the injury was caused by negligence.
- AFCS claims have to be lodged with seven years, whereas civil claims usually have to be lodged at court within 3 years
- AFCS claims only cover compensation for the actual injury so it is limited. Whereas civil claims can provide for future losses and expenses, including loss of earnings.
- A civil claim is difficult to bring when the injury arises out of combat in war
To find out more about the processes involved in each of the different routes, you can view our Guide to making a military compensation claim.
Time limits for bringing military claims
Many military personnel are left without the option of pursuing a negligence claim because they have been wrongly advised that they can only claim under the AFCS. By the time of contacting solicitors due to a change in circumstances, for example discharge from the Army, they are frequently out of time of bring their claim.
Don’t fall foul of the strict time limits for bring a claim and ensure that you consider both avenues at the earliest opportunity. There are benefits to both routes, and the best choice for you will depend on your circumstances and the nature of your injury. Quite often, both avenues are worth pursuing and there is nothing preventing you from doing so. Our military claims team frequently act for clients who are still awaiting the outcome of their AFCS assessment.
Examples of cases where civil claims exceed AFCS awards
We acted for a client with a non-freezing cold injury (NFCI) who received an AFCS award of £10,800 but the civil case settled for £420,800. A client with shrapnel injuries received an AFCS award of £31,240 but the civil case settled for £1.25million. It is well worth seeking advice on the value your civil claim may have, and not just settling for the AFCS decision. With the right solicitors working for you, you can achieve the right compensation for the injuries you have suffered to give you peace of mind for the loss of opportunities that you have faced.
Ahmed Al-Nahhas is a partner and Head of the Military Claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Ahmed free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4818 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Military team will contact you. Find out more about the Military Claims team.