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9 April 2024 | Case Study | Military case studies | Article by Nia-Wyn Evans

Soldier’s career progression hampered by Non-Freezing Cold Injuries suffered during training

Our client, Mr Young sustained a non-freezing cold injury (‘NFCI’) to both of his feet in January 2015 as a result of cold exposure during his time in service. He has suffered from severe pain in both of his feet and will be cold sensitised for the rest of his life.

Mr Young “passed out” from basic training in the top third of his Platoon and maintained this status throughout his military career. He also demonstrated leadership potential at a very early stage, when given the responsibility of being second in command while still only a Private, but unfortunately at the age of 24, his career progression was hampered due to suffering a non-freezing cold injury to both of his feet during a training course.

Mr Young spent two weeks on a Potential Junior Non-Commissioned Officer’s (PJNCO) Cadre Course during January 2015. It snowed intermittently, was cold, wet and windy. Mr Young lived and slept in basic trenches, the floor of which was covered with a layer of snow, rain, and freezing sludge. The icy water and mud came over the top of his boots early in the Course and soaked him. His feet were constantly wet, and he gradually realised as the course progressed that his feet had become completely numb.

When he eventually warmed up on the bus back to base at the end of the course, he felt severe pain in his feet. Leaving the bus on foot was extremely painful, and he was unable to attend the course’s “pass out” parade due to the severity of his injuries.

Mr Young was effectively bedridden and unable to walk for around two weeks, and even once he was able to mobilise, he continued to experience residual discomfort for the months that followed.

Mr Young reported his injuries to a military medical officer, who made a diagnosis of ‘cold injury’ and referred our client to the Cold Injuries Clinic at the Institute of Naval Medicine. However, this was not followed up and Mr Young was allowed to continue serving without being medically downgraded. Despite his injuries, Mr Young persevered with the course and was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal in January 2015.

After the acute symptoms had resolved, Mr Young tried to manage his injuries as best he could without inviting further medical attention, as he knew that soldiers who were medically downgraded were at risk of having their military career suppressed or even terminated.

Mr Young was later selected by the Chain of Command to attend the Section Commander’s Battle Course (SCBC), the promotional course to the rank of Corporal. However, he withdrew halfway through the course to avoid conducting the field-based tactics phase in the cold conditions of Sennybridge, the location of his initial cold injury, to avoid suffering a second injury.

Soon after, Mr Young left the Army through early release in February 2018, when he realised that his non-freezing cold injury would prevent him from undertaking future promotional courses. But for his injuries, he would have remained in the Army for a full-service career and would have continued to promote.

After leaving the Army, Mr Young took up a role as a Network Engineer with BT Openreach, in which he struggled with working outside in cold conditions during the winter months.

Mr Young’s acute symptoms have since largely been avoided due to Mr Young’s management of his injuries by wearing warm kit and using warm havens when available. Although, even with the management of his injuries, Mr Young still had to leave his outdoor role at BT Open reach due to his difficulty in handling his cold sensitivity in the winter months.

Mr Young soon contacted our specialist military team, who helped him through his claim and gained supportive evidence to support his case.

“Nia-Wyn Evans has been handling my case throughout. She has been amazing from start to finish and cannot thank her enough. She’s always kept me up to date and well informed. Everyone I have had to deal with in the military department has been extremely helpful and made the process nice and easy”.

The MoD settled the claim out of court, and Mr Young was awarded a total of £255,000 net in
damages and losses. Mr Young’s case underscores the long-lasting nature of cold injuries among military personnel.

If you or someone you know suspects they may have incurred a cold injury during military service, we urge you to contact our specialist military team today.

Author bio

Nia-Wyn Evans

Senior Associate

Nia-Wyn is a senior associate solicitor with Hugh James. She has specialised in representing military service personnel and veterans bring claims against the Ministry of Defence, with a particular interest in cold related injuries.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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