Will new soldier compensation harm more than help?

This article was published on: 02/16/17

A new compensation scheme which aims to keep legal action to a minimum may have as many cons and it does pros. While soldiers are looking at more generous pay-outs than using courts, the downside to families currently campaigning for better regulation of safety could be left in the cold.

Generous compensation

The Defence Minister Michael Fallon announced towards the end of last year that soldiers and their families would receive more generous compensation for injuries or deaths during active combat under new plans.

The plans met with some positive reactions. Although the true extent as to whether the scheme will be successful is heavily debated due to the potential of sweeping negligence issues under the rug.

Potential problems

While paying families and those affected more, ideally keeping them away from long litigation processes seems a good idea at heart, there are underlying problems when it comes to the actual reasons behind the compensation. Many military claims relating to negligence are over poor equipment and insufficient protection for the given operation.

Many families are using their case as a way of highlighting the current problems with military equipment putting personnel at risk. Should the civil courts be taken out of the equation altogether, it could push these problems out of the eyes of those who can make decisions to resolve it.

Law Society President, Robert Burns, spoke about the society’s objection to the possible changes: “The Ministry of Defence wants to make it impossible for soldiers and their families to bring claims against it to court when these relate to actions in combat. Any claimant would only have recourse to an internal MoD compensation scheme that would rule on cases brought against it.

“This means cases would not be heard by an independent judge, facts would not be independently investigated, responsibility would not be established and a state institution, if liable, would not be held to account.

“Soldiers and their families must not be shut out of our justice system. The Law Society will be responding to the MoD’s consultation to raise these and other concerns.”

Should there be change?

Should servicemen be allowed to take action down the civil route? Would the campaign turn eyes away from legitimate safety concerns and keep injuries/ deaths behind closed doors? Only time will tell but the plans have opened up debate about what options are available for soldiers and families in the event of injury.

We only hope that should the plans go ahead, that problems regarding inadequate equipment, lack of equipment or other issue which affect safety (and can easily cost lives on the battlefield) will be acted upon and fixed rather than those who suffer to be merely paid out and kept quiet.

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