Settlement for soldier after artillery shell smashes shin in training accident

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Settlement for soldier after artillery shell smashes shin in training accident

18th July 2013

A soldier whose shin was shattered when a 100lb artillery shell fell onto his leg during a training exercise has received £57,500 in an out of court settlement.

The Hampshire soldier took more than two years to recover from the injury, after first undergoing surgery to realign his bones and then having 44 metal staples inserted into his leg to seal his wounds shut.

“My client, who is in his 30s, was in Alberta, Canada, as part of a five man unit operating an AS90 howitzer - a tank-like mobile artillery unit,” said Vijay Mehan, a specialist serious injuries partner at Fentons Solicitors LLP.

“On the day of the incident he was travelling in the back of the AS90 when it suddenly braked, causing a 155mm shell - weighing approximately 100lbs - to fall more than a metre from an ammunition rail, straight onto his outstretched leg.”

Vijay said that ammunition was stored on rails at various points all around the AS90, but a supporting bolt had sheared off this one rail and pieces of wood were being used to ‘wedge’ it in place.

“Although my client had reported the faulty rail to his commanding officer, no steps had been taken to fix it,” he said. “When the shell landed on his leg, he immediately screamed in agony. When he looked down, he saw that his leg was bleeding and completely bent out of shape.”

The crewman was given morphine and after his leg was placed in a splint, he was air-lifted by helicopter to a hospital in Alberta where he underwent emergency surgery to have a metal bolt inserted into his leg through his right knee and down towards his ankle. A muscle graft was then taken and 44 individual metal staples were used to seal his wounds. After four days, he was discharged in a wheelchair and flown back to England.

“Over the next several months, my client was virtually bed bound and in constant severe pain,” said Vijay. “Thehuge amount of painkillers he had to take each day were so strong that they often prevented him from sleeping and left him feeling constantly sick and drunk.He also had to endure the constant and odd sensation that his leg was about to burst, and as he was required to keep his injured leg elevated as much as possible he had to rely on his wife to help him with all his daily needs.

“Throughout this time, because my client had previously been in such peak physical condition, he found it extremely hard coping with his lack of mobility,” he added. “Furthermore, he found it particularly distressing that he couldn’t run around and play with his two young children, and as he was unable to bear any direct weight on his leg, he couldn’t even have them sit on his knee.”

In the 12 months following his accident, the claimant underwent extensive physiotherapy as well as three separate operations to have metalwork adjusted and removed from his leg. Although after this time he was just about able to place weight on his injured leg without crutches, he continued to suffer ongoing pain, swelling and stiffness, he found it extremely uncomfortable walking or standing and he couldn’t even rest or remain seated without being in constant pain.

“Previously, on account of his job, my client led a very active and sport-filled life,” said Vijay. “Due to his injuries however, for several months he was unable even to walk to his local shops and as a result, suffered significant stress, anxiety and depression. Along with feeling incredibly frustrated and isolated he also became increasingly upset that through no fault of his own, his career ambitions had been stopped in their tracks.

“Although he has finally returned to operational duties as a soldier, my client has had to endure more than three years of near-constant pain and emotional stress simply because his employer failed to ensure the equipment he was required to handle whilst in training was fit for purpose,” he added. “As a result, he will always have some pain and stiffness in his leg, particularly when kneeling, and he has been left with permanent scarring. In addition, he has suffered lost earnings and bonuses and more importantly, his Army prospects and chances of promotion have been negatively impacted.

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for serving or former military personnel.

If you think you have a case which involves a breach of the Military Covenant, or if you require further assistance with any other military claim or personal injury claim, why not call our freephone helpline on 0800 019 1297. Alternatively complete the brief military claim form on our website.