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Armed Forces Compensation Scheme & Personal Injury Claims For Armed Forces Personnel

There are almost 200,000 UK armed services personnel, which means that the MOD is a major employer, and like any employer has a duty and responsibility to its personnel. There is also the possibility of injury arising from other 3rd parties, just the same as for all members of the public, such as road traffic accidents, medical negligence or public liability claims.

Personal injury claims brought on behalf of armed forces personnel bring a number of complexities, both in relation to legal liability and quantification of loss, particularly in cases of significant injury which either impair or end a military career.

By virtue of the principle of Crown Immunity, claims could not be brought against the MOD by serving personnel until the principle was repealed in 1987. The present position is that no claim can be brought by a member of the armed forces in respect of tort(s) arising during service prior to February 1987. Cases previously defeated by Crown Immunity are now likely to be fewer in number as there are unlikely to be many remaining armed forces personnel who were in service before February 1987.

In cases against the MOD it is important to determine whether the situation gives rise to a duty of care on the part of the MOD and if so, whether that duty has been breached, however it should be noted that each case will turn upon its own facts and an assessment of same by a solicitor and or counsel.

From April 2005, service personnel who have sustained injury whilst on duty have been able to claim compensation through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS). This is a ‘no fault’ scheme and therefore the injured person does not have to prove liability on the part of the MOD., though it is advisable to seek legal advice as to whether the circumstances of the accident are outside the scope of the AFCS.

Claims made through the AFCS must be brought within 7 years of the date of incident, compared to the 3 year time limit for bringing a civil claim through the courts. The AFCS does not prevent a civil claim being brought against the MOD alongside the AFCS claim, however it should be noted that AFCS compensation awards can be offset against any compensation paid to the injured person in a civil claim against the MOD arising from the same incident.

It should be noted that AFCS awards are based upon a set tariff and may not adequately compensate a claimant for all aspects of their injuries and losses, which would be properly assessed in the preparation of a civil claim brought through the courts.

Should an accident have an adverse effect upon a military career, the value of these claims can be significant and therefore require a solicitor with understanding of military career structure, remuneration and pension schemes, though the detail of quantification is generally the subject of expert evidence.

The expert will have to assess and provide an opinion as to the claimant’s career prospects but for the occurrence of the accident. The Claimant’s service and medical records will therefore be crucial in such cases.

The assessment of a claimant’s career prospects is dependent upon: intended length of service; periodic physical and mental fitness assessments (referred to as PULHEEMS assessments); disciplinary record; records of appraisal.

If the claimant’s military career prospects are curtailed or ended entirely, awards of damages for loss of earnings and pension can be significant, particularly to a claimant who is invested in a long term career up to full 24 year engagement and who may also be considered a strong promotion candidate.

Armed Forces pensions are, in general terms, linked to that member’s earnings and therefore loss of pension claims can be substantial. There are a number of pension schemes dependent upon the date of enlistment, some of which are based upon final salary, however the more recent schemes provide pensions and lump sums based upon earnings throughout their career. The various schemes and the basis of calculation highlight the importance of expert evidence in these cases.

Other allowances or benefits may also increase the value of the loss of earnings claim, such things may include: accommodation; overseas operational allowances, campaign continuity payments for long assignments.

It is therefore crucial that members of the armed services seek expert legal advice at an early stage if they have suffered personal injuries, either caused by the MOD or a third party, in order that careful preparation of the case may be undertaken.

With a specialist personal injury and medical negligence team combined accessible in our office in Catterick Garrison or Darlington, if you have suffered an personal injury and want to seek further advice, contact your nearest office today or email enquiries@clarkwillis.co.uk and we will call you to discuss your circumstances.

Divorce & Separation During Covid-19

As we move into the 4th month of the Covid-19 pandemic in England, Tanya Bloomfield, Head of Family Law at Clark Willis, looks at the impact that it is having on divorce and separation.

Fundamentally, the ability to start the separation process has remained available throughout the pandemic but the restrictions on movement, financial impact and those self isolating because they have contracted the virus have caused a number of issues with the process.

The courts, already operating with a slight delay in dealing with applications and paperwork prior to the pandemic, have had those delays compounded. To address this, the courts  have been adapting their operations and embracing the digital world to a greater degree, for example accepting electronic applications and scanned signatures, to ensure that cases can be progressed as swiftly as possible. From the early days of the pandemic, the ability of the courts to progress matters and hold digital hearings has notably improved.

Our Family team has also continued to harness technology to support our clients with telephone or video call client meetings, remote working capabilities and even hosting Mediation meetings digitally through our dedicated Mediation service, meaning that we have remained fully operational during the coronavirus pandemic.

The effect on the economy, being furloughed or redundancy possibilities have caused increased concern over the financial implications of separations and what will happen in the short, medium and long term. For those people facing uncertainty, a degree of flexibility to revisit financial negotiations if there is a sudden change in financial circumstances of one party may mean a Separation Agreement may be appropriate until the pandemic is over and a full Consent Order secured through the court to finalize a financial break.

There are also added complications of how to manage children from separated households in light of the government guidance. Schools starting to return have added yet more considerations on childcare during the pandemic and the varied approach to this from individual schools and across different age groups means parents are having to be a little bit more flexible. With further changes to furlough arriving from July and the summer holidays starting, there may be more adjustments required.

The lock down has also been difficult for those couples already experiencing strain in their relationships and is likely to lead to a number of new separations as we emerge from current restrictive provisions. Considering separation comes with many questions about how to separate, what happens with finances and/or children and our specialist solicitors are still working during the pandemic and available to help you understand your financial position and options.

We have the largest Family Law team in Darlington, including Collaborative solicitors, Resolution members and qualified Mediators, so you can have peace of mind that you are receiving the best advice from expert negotiators.

We can meet with you confidentially by telephone, Facetime, Teams or Zoom. We will also explore whether you might be entitled to Legal aid. We also offer fixed fee initial consultations and pay-as-you-go services.

Contact us on 01325 281111, visit www.clarkwillis.com or email family@clarkwillis.co.uk directly for further information and to speak to a member of our team confidentiality.

No. 9 – Fashion

No. 9 ‘Fashion’

With nearly 50 years of providing legal services we have seen a wide range of fashion trends come and go across the high street. From the bell bottoms of the 70s, the shoulder pads of the 80s, 90’s Britpop through to the fast fashion of the millennium they have all had, or will have had, their day and will be replaced by the next new trend. Whilst clothing fashion is seasonable and short term, trusted legal advice never goes out of fashion and for our clients we are there when they need us with practical advice.

At Clark Willis we believe in being a law firm for life, in being there for our clients and their families when life events mean that they require a solicitor and to help them plan for the future. Whatever the season, whatever the weather we have a range of experience solicitors to support them for their personal legal needs. We invest in this ethos in four main ways:

  1. Ensuring we have a core of personal legal services to ensure we can meet an individual’s legal requirements throughout their lifetime. Some of our core services include buying or selling Property, Will writing and estate planning, Divorce and Childcare, Personal Injury, Dispute Resolution and then finally assisting in sorting our matters through Probate when a person passes away. This cradle to grave mentality means we can genuinely be a law firm for life.
  2. Focus on delivering excellent customer service levels to ensure that our client’s experience of a law firm is positive. We are highly rated for customer satisfaction and seek feedback off every client as we strive to constantly seek new ways to improve our customer journey with us. Instructing solicitors can be daunting and often at emotional times, where aspects as basic as being able to speak to your solicitor on the phone, being made to feel at ease and emotionally supported can make a real difference to the experience and challenge the traditional reputation of solicitors appearing aloof.
  3. Rewarding loyalty. Existing clients receive discounts on our standard rates for future work and those people utilising our residential conveyancing service or family team services also qualify for discounts on writing our updating Wills to reflect their new circumstances. We also offer complimentary storage of key documents as standard.
  4. Like a fashion brand, we continually look ahead to the future and invest in future talent, recruit to retain and provide a positive working environment for our team. Many of the current team have trained with us and we have even had several team members who have left to explore life outside of firm and who have returned back to the fold. The longest serving employee has been with us for over 40 years. We believe this internal ethos flows through positively into our service.

So, whilst fashion trends on the high street may change seasonally, we remain true to our aim of providing clear legal advice, with clear costs making us the clear choice for legal advice regardless of the latest trends. Whether you need a solicitor because you are getting Divorced, moving home, need probate help or have suffered a personal injury, our team are here for you.

‘Fashion’ is the 9th image in a series of monthly monochrome images to be featured over a 12 month period across our social media channels to highlight some of the key elements of our service so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to see the series as they are released.

For more information on our firm please see www.clarkwillis.com