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Military Hearing Loss Claims

Hearing loss might not immediately spring to mind when contemplating the risks inherent in military life. However, according to Government statistics, noise-induced hearing loss claims are the most common category of employers’ liability claims brought against the Ministry of Defence.

If you have suffered hearing loss as a result of your military service, you could be entitled to compensation, both for the financial loss you sustained as a result and for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity.

How to Tell if You Have Suffered Hearing Loss?

Whilst noise-induced hearing loss can be more difficult to spot than obvious physical injuries, such as wounds and broken bones, the condition can significantly impact the sufferer’s life. Hearing loss may manifest itself in various ways, including the following:

  • Struggling to hear high-pitched sounds, such as sirens or birds chirping.
  • Having trouble hearing other people’s speech clearly or distinguishing their words, particularly in noisy environments.
  • Finding it difficult to hear people over the phone.
  • Needing to watch the television or listen to the radio at a higher volume than others.
  • Experiencing tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears.

Can I claim for hearing loss suffered when in the military?

Yes, just as civilians can claim against their employer for noise-induced hearing loss, any current or former member of the UK military may have a claim against the Ministry of Defence for hearing loss sustained as a result of their employment in the military.

Virtually all military personnel will be exposed to hazardous noise levels in some guise or other during their career. Common causes of hearing loss in the military include the following:

  • Proximity to noisy vehicles, such as tanks, ships, and trucks.
  • Exposure to gun and artillery fire.
  • Being in the vicinity of explosions from bombs or other explosive devices.
  • Exposure to aircraft noise as pilot or crew or on the flight deck.
  • Playing in the military band

What’s The Claims Process For Military Hearing Loss?

You can bring a claim for military hearing loss either through an MOD scheme designed to compensate military personnel for service-related injuries or by issuing court proceedings. The bar for receiving compensation under the MOD schemes is notoriously high, but even if your case doesn’t meet the demanding criteria, you may still be able to bring a civil claim through the courts.

A general overview of the claims process for military hearing loss claims made through the courts is as follows:

Instruct solicitors

When you suspect that you have suffered hearing loss as a result of your military service, you should seek legal advice from a personal injury solicitor immediately. Strict time limits apply to personal injury claims. If you miss the deadline, you cannot pursue your case, regardless of its merits.

Establish liability

Once instructed, your personal injury solicitors will undertake a thorough review of your case. They will look at issues such as how you sustained your hearing loss, the nature of your condition, and how it impacts your life. Your solicitor will also consider whether the MOD can be held responsible for your hearing loss. In legal speak, this is referred to as ‘liability’.

To establish liability, it is not enough that you suffered hearing loss whilst in service; you must prove that the hearing loss resulted from the MOD’s negligence. Like all employers, the MOD has a legal duty to keep you safe at work, including taking reasonable steps to protect you from harmful noise exposure. If the MOD failed in this duty, and you suffered noise-induced hearing loss as a result, they may be liable. What will constitute ‘reasonable steps’ depends on the circumstances but will likely involve the MOD seeking to reduce noise levels where possible and providing adequate ear protection.

Assess your injuries

Your personal injury solicitors will need to assess the extent and severity of your hearing loss. To do so, they will obtain access to your medical notes and hospital records and arrange for you to have a medical examination.

Gather evidence

Your personal injury solicitors will need to be clear as to the circumstances that gave rise to your hearing loss, whether they were a one-off incident or ongoing exposure to hazardous noise levels. The types of evidence your personal injury solicitors might collate to piece together the circumstances include the following:

  • Your account of how you believe your hearing loss came about.
  • The accounts of any witnesses present during the times you were exposed to excessive noise.
  • Any correspondence passing between you and other military personnel. This might include correspondence in which you raised concerns regarding noise levels, the adequacy of your ear protection, or your hearing.
  • Your recollections of any conversations with other military personnel regarding noise levels.
  • Your medical notes.

Work out how much compensation you’re entitled to

A crucial step in the claims process is working out how much compensation you deserve. The compensation will include an amount for your pain, suffering, and loss of amenity, and an amount to cover any financial losses, such as travel expenses, care costs, medical bills, and loss of earnings.

You’ll need to provide evidence of your financial loss, so it’s important to retain anything relevant, such as invoices, receipts and pay slips.

Contact the MOD

When your personal injury solicitors have put together a complete picture of your case and calculated the compensation due, they will send a letter to the MOD setting out details of your claim. They will also request access to your military personnel file and medical notes.

Upon receipt of your solicitor’s letter, the MOD will conduct its own investigations into the issue, which will likely include them liaising with your unit and any other personnel regarding the circumstances that gave rise to your hearing loss.

Negotiate a settlement

Many personal injury claims settle before court proceedings are issued. If the MOD accepts liability, your personal injury solicitors will seek to negotiate the highest possible level of compensation. Once the settlement sum is agreed, the MOD will pay it, and you can move on.

If the MOD disputes liability, your personal injury solicitors will talk to you about issuing court proceedings against the MOD.

Issue a claim

The MOD is only liable for your hearing loss if their negligence caused it. If the MOD disputes liability because, for example, they allege that you did not wear the ear protection they provided, you would need to issue court proceedings to resolve the matter.

During the course of the proceedings, both sides will present evidence relating to the circumstances surrounding your hearing loss, the severity of your condition, and the appropriate level of compensation. Your personal injury solicitors will support and guide you through the process. Remember, nobody wants to go to Court, so settlement talks will continue behind the scenes. Even if you issue proceedings against the MOD, there’s a good chance your solicitors will negotiate a settlement before your case reaches trial.

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS)

The Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, or AFCS, is a Government scheme operated by Veterans UK. The AFCS provides tax-free, lump sum compensation payments to serving and ex-serving military personnel, including reserves, for injuries sustained while on duty after 2005.

The AFCS is a tariff-based scheme, with each type of injury graded according to its severity. Payments made under the scheme range, at the time of writing, from £1,236 for minor injuries, such as a frozen shoulder, to £650,000 for severe injuries, such as those to the brain that leave the victim in a permanent vegetative state.

The relevant compensation amount for noise-induced hearing loss varies depending on the severity and extent of the condition, and only substantial hearing loss will be compensated. The highest amount awarded is for total deafness in both ears, for which sufferers can currently receive up to £484,000. However, most compensation awards for hearing loss are far lower. No separate awards are made for tinnitus, which the scheme includes alongside other ear-related injuries.

The AFCS is a no-fault scheme, so the MOD accepts no liability when agreeing to pay compensation. Accordingly, you do not need to prove blame to succeed. However, that is not to say the process is easy. Unlike court proceedings, which are presided over by an independent judge, AFCS claims are considered by the MOD itself. The scheme has been criticized for being inconsistent and unfair, and for a perceived lack of empathy on the MOD’s part. Furthermore, except in cases involving the most severe injuries, the AFCS does not compensate victims for losses stemming from their injury, such as lost earnings. These losses often significantly increase the sums a judge might award, so the compensation received under the scheme can sometimes be far lower than that awarded by the court in the same circumstances.

To ensure you receive the appropriate compensation, your personal injury solicitors may advise you to make a claim under the AFCS at the same time as issuing court proceedings. You cannot claim compensation for the same injury twice, but any award given by the MOD will simply be offset against the damages awarded by a judge.

How Much Compensation Could I Receive For Military Hearing Loss?

If you claim under the AFCS, your compensation will be based on the tariffs in force at the time. For example, at the moment, you could expect a maximum of £6,180 for temporary hearing loss.

The compensation you would likely receive through court proceedings is trickier to calculate. The overarching principle is that the compensation awarded should put you back in the position you would have been in had you not sustained the hearing loss. Compensation is divided into two categories: General damages and special damages. General damages are intended to compensate the victim for the pain, suffering, and loss of amenity their injury causes, insofar as possible. The purpose of special damages is to make good any financial losses stemming from the injury.

  • General damages are at the judge’s discretion, and the level of compensation a judge considers appropriate in one case may differ from that in another involving a virtually identical injury. The judge will consider various factors when deciding on general damages, including the extent of your hearing loss and its impact on your daily life. To facilitate a degree of consistency, though, judges can refer to a set of Guidelines that indicate the levels of compensation likely to be appropriate in particular cases. Awards for hearing loss under the Guidelines start at around £7,000, and you can claim for tinnitus alone.
  • Special damages are often more easily quantifiable than general damages. They are intended to compensate you for the financial losses caused by your hearing loss. Examples of the types of losses you might include in your special damages claim include travel and medical expenses, care costs and loss of earnings. In cases where the hearing loss is considerable, the most significant category of special damages is often the loss of earnings claim. If your loss of hearing rendered you incapable of deployment or even medically discharged, the impact on your career prospects and earning potential can be substantial. Your personal injury solicitor will calculate your loss of earnings claim and include it in a document known as the ‘Schedule of Loss’, together with details of the other damages sought.

What is the average payout for hearing loss from the MOD?

As with all personal injury claims, there is no such thing as an ‘average payout’ in military hearing loss claims. The facts and circumstances of each case are different, as are the pain and suffering experienced by the victim. However, various reports place a typical award at between £5,000 and £30,000, with an average award for milder hearing loss being around £6,000. There are reports of the court awarding far higher amounts, though, where the victim’s hearing loss led to them struggling to secure future employment and incurring the ongoing expense of medical equipment, such as costly hearing aids. In some cases, the damages awarded have been as high as £700,000.

Are You Eligible to Make a Military Hearing Loss Claim?

To be eligible to claim under the AFCS, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You are a current or former member of the military.
  • Your injury was sustained within the last seven years. If your hearing loss only became noticeable sometime after it was sustained, you may be able to bring your claim after the seven-year deadline, provided you do so within three years of becoming aware of it.

You should be eligible to bring a claim through the courts if the MOD’s actions amounted to negligence. The requirements for a negligence claim are as follows:

The MOD owed you a duty of care

All employers, including the MOD, owe their employees a duty of care to keep them safe whilst at work.

The MOD breached their duty

The MOD’s duty of care includes a duty to protect you from excessive noise insofar as is reasonable. So, if the MOD failed to reduce noise levels in circumstances where they reasonably could have done or did not provide ear protection, they likely breached their duty.

You suffered hearing loss as a result of the MOD’s breach of duty

Your hearing loss must have resulted from the MOD breaching their duty of care to you. If the hearing loss would have occurred anyway, your claim will fail, regardless of any failings on the MOD’s part. Further, if you were partly to blame for the hearing loss – because you did not consistently wear the ear protection provided, for instance – you may struggle to hold the MOD liable. If your claim does succeed, your compensation may be reduced to reflect the fact that you were partly to blame.

Your personal injury solicitors will assess your eligibility to make a military hearing loss claim and advise accordingly.

Can I Make A No Win No Fee Military Hearing Loss Claim?

Yes, most military hearing loss claims are made on a no win, no fee basis. Under a typical no-win, no-fee arrangement, you only pay your solicitor’s fees if your claim succeeds, at which point you pay the amount detailed in your no win, no fee agreement. Rest assured that the amount your solicitors charge won’t swallow up all your compensation; they can’t take more than 25% of the damages you receive. If your claim fails, you pay nothing. Accordingly, under no win no fee agreements, there’s very little financial risk to you in making a claim for military hearing loss.

Other Important Information

*No Win No Fee

  • Although all our cases are handled on a no win no fee basis, other costs could be payable upon solicitors request. These will be fully explained to you before you proceed. Most customers will pay 25% (including VAT) of the compensation they are awarded to their law firm, although this may vary based on individual circumstances. Your solicitor may arrange for insurance to be in place for you to make sure your claim is risk free. Termination fees based on time spent may apply, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation or deliberately misleading our solicitors, or failing to go to any medical or expert examination, or court hearing.
  • *Criminal Injury Claims

  • If you want to make a claim for a criminal injury, you are not required to use the services of a claims management company to pursue the claim. You can submit your claim for free on your own behalf, directly to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (England, Wales, and Scotland) or the Criminal Injury Compensation Scheme (Northern Ireland).
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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