For decades, federal law and court precedent have effectively prevented military service members from taking legal action against the government because of injuries that they suffered in the line of duty. Under the Feres Doctrine, injured soldiers and grieving families have struggled to seek compensation in the past.
Even those who suffered injuries or who lost loved ones because of clear negligence or wrongful acts by others in the military have been refused the opportunity to seek compensation. In fact, the policy itself derives its name from a case where the family was denied the right to compensation in a negligence-related lawsuit after inadequate maintenance led to the death of their family member in a fire at the Pine Camp barracks in New York.
Thankfully, federal policy on the rights of military service members and their family members have changed in recent years. Under the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, military service members and their surviving dependents now have limited rights to bring medical malpractice claims against the military in certain circumstances. What restrictions apply to a claim brought by a member of the armed forces?
Medical malpractice claims cannot stem from a combat zone
Medical professionals serving on the front lines, along with military service members, often risk their lives and have to work in sub-optimal conditions without adequate equipment or supplies. They may have to make difficult decisions based on their current circumstances that would never occur in modern medical facilities.
In order to ensure that medical professionals remain willing to put themselves in dangerous positions to help service members in their moments of need, the federal government does not allow service members to bring claims as a result of treatment in a combat zone.
There’s a statute of limitations that applies
In order to seek compensation, a member of the military who suffered injuries due to negligence or other forms of medical malpractice must file a claim within two years from the date of the incident. Depending on the amount of compensation sought, either the Department of Defense or the Treasury Department will handle resolving the claim.
Any medical malpractice claim is complex, but military medical malpractice claims require an understanding of both malpractice and military law. Those seeking compensation would likely benefit from the advice of someone with experience in this niche area of law.