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Ministry of Defence to pay veterans for military hearing loss 

Following a landmark case last year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has accepted its duty of care to veterans and has dropped its primary argument of timing of claims.  

Veterans discharged after 1987  

Anyone serving in the Armed Forces before 1987 is unable to claim compensation for hearing loss. This is because prior to this, the UK government had legal immunity from such claims. The law was changed in 1987, allowing servicemen to claim compensation for injuries sustained during their service, including hearing loss.  

Despite the change in law, the MoD have generally opposed claims, arguing that other noise sources were to blame for damaged hearing, or that claims were filed too late.  

Time limits for bringing claims 

There are time limits for bringing any personal injury claim. The general rule is that court proceedings have to be issued within three years of the date on which a personal injury claim arose.  

This is easy to establish for an accident but for other personal injuries which occur over a period of time, such as those caused by industrial disease, there will not always be a clear date from which the three-year time limit runs from. In these cases, the time limit runs from the date of knowledge, that is the date from which someone is aware they have a condition and have connected this to their work.  

For hearing loss, although someone can suffer damage to their hearing, they are not always aware of this and it is sometimes not until the inevitable loss of hearing due to age begins, that the initial hearing damage becomes known, and it is at this point that the three-year time period would start to run.  

Over 9,000 military hearing loss cases settled 

Despite the above, the MoD have been paying compensation for military hearing loss. Between 2012 and 2020 they paid out £72m over more than 9,000 military hearing loss cases.  

In light of the landmark case, it is expected that more service personnel will now make claims for compensation.  

Landmark case 

The case that may have changed everything for veterans is that of James Barry, who was only in his 30’s when he suffered hearing loss and tinnitus and was awarded £700,000 in compensation. Mr Barry served in the Royal Marines and first noticed hearing problems after returning from a training exercise where he had been provided with yellow foam ear inserts which he alleged were inadequate and unsuitable to use because they would fall out and did not allow for situational awareness. His legal team argued that despite hearing tests indicating a problem, he continued to be sent on exercises and was exposed to further unprotected noise exposure. Ultimately, he was sadly forced to leave the Royal Marines as a direct result of his hearing difficulties.  

Hearing loss is not trivial 

Many people do not view hearing loss as a significant problem but it can be can be extremely isolating and debilitating. Army personnel can be deemed medically unfit if they fail a hearing test and it can rule them out of a number of civilian jobs, making it very difficult to adjust to life outside the Armed Forces.  

A welcome change 

Here at Oliver & Co, we welcome the change in stance from the MoD. Having successfully claimed compensation for a veteran suffering with military hearing loss, Helena Cameron said; “This change in stance by the Ministry of Defence is a monumental victory for our veterans and servicemen and women generally. It acknowledges the profound impact of military noise exposure on hearing and paves the way for thousands to receive the compensation they rightfully deserve. Our servicemen and women have sacrificed so much; it’s only right that their health and wellbeing are now being given the priority they deserve.” 

How we can help 

If you have served in the Armed Forces, after 1987, and are suffering with hearing loss and tinnitus, get in touch with us today. You can complete our contact form or call us. We appreciate that you may struggle to speak on the phone and we can do much of our work with you through email.  

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