Claiming Compensation for Trench Foot

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Gavin Hughes

Partner, Military Claims Solicitor

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What is Trench foot and how to claim compensation for it?

Trench Foot is commonly associated with WWI because of the outbreak. In modern days, there’s much more awareness about the condition, how to prevent it, and the benefits of looking after your feet in wet conditions.

Despite there being more awareness, trench foot still happens and it’s possible if you keep your feet exposed to the wet for too long.

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An explanation of Trench Foot

  • "If you have never had Trench Foot described to you, I will explain. Your feet swell to 2-3 times their normal size and go completely dead. You can stick a bayonet into them and not feel a thing. If you are lucky enough not to lose your feet and the swelling starts to go down, it’s then the most indescribable agony begins. I have heard men cry and scream with pain and many have had to have their feet and legs amputated. I was one of the lucky ones, but one more day in the trench and it may have been too late."

    Harry Roberts

    extract from diary, WWI

What is Trench Foot?

Over 20,000 men in the British Army were treated for Trench Foot in the winter of 1914/15 alone, and there were 74,000 allied troops afflicted by the end of the war.

The causes behind Trench Foot, now generally described as a non-freezing cold injury, are now well understood. Non-freezing cold injuries are caused by exposure to wet conditions, and temperatures just above freezing leading to tissue and nerve damage and blood flow restriction. It’s caused as a result of your feet being wet for far too long, which causes nerve and circulation damage.


Symptoms of Trench Foot

Initial symptoms are cold and numbness, progressing to an intense painful burning sensation, and blisters, redness and ultimately, if untreated, to the more severe complications which some of Harry Roberts’ comrades endured.

The symptoms can affect either a small portion of the feet or extend all over the feet, including the toes. Trench Foot can lead to amputations, gangrene, and permanent nerve damage.


Causes of Trench Foot

Trench Foot develops when feet are wet for too long and aren’t dried properly, so it’s much more common in cold and wet environments. That being said, Trench Foot can develop in warmer climates too. Regardless of how hot or cold the environment is, the key is to make sure your feet keep dry.

Other causes can be wearing wet socks for an extended period of time and swimming while wearing water shoes.


Who Can Get Trench Foot?

While Trench Foot is most associated with the military, anyone can get it.

It’s also common for people at music festivals to develop Trench Foot, as they can be standing outside in the rain for days at a time. Ultimately, if you spend a lot of time outdoors, you will have an increased risk of Trench Foot, due to the nature of the activity.

It can take only 1 – 3 days to develop Trench Foot, which isn’t long. Some cases can develop within as little as 10 hours, so you should always be careful with keeping your feet clean and dry.


Diagnosing Trench Foot

If you think that you have Trench Foot, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. When it comes to treating Trench Foot, the condition can worsen quickly without treatment.

Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your foot and discuss your symptoms. They will want to rule out any underlying infection that may be the main cause of your symptoms, to offer the best course of treatment.

Trench Foot is completely treatable if it’s caught early, which is often a gentle rewarming of your foot.


Trench Foot Treatment

During WWI, the treatment of Trench Foot wasn’t as it is today. Back then, people were treated with bed rest and foot washes. If the condition worsened, they then turned to amputation.

These days Trench Foot is treated much differently. Doctors will ask you to keep your foot elevated to encourage circulation to return. You’ll also be given pain medication to offer some relief for the pain and swelling.

If you develop Trench Foot, here’s what you should do:

  • Clean and dry your feet
  • Wear clean socks
  • Apply warm packs
  • Don’t wear socks during the night
  • Seek medical assistance


Personal Injury Claims for Trench Foot

Exposure to cold and wet conditions in training can be controlled, and appropriate cold weather and waterproof clothing provided, to minimise the risk of injury.

Nonetheless, with training designed to provide a physical challenge, and exposure to the elements essential in field training, non-freezing cold injuries still frequently occur.

Thankfully, in these more enlightened times, few injuries will result in the grave outcomes endured by many thousands in WW1. Our Military Claims Solicitors are good at assisting injured Armed Forces members to get the money they should have, especially if their military career had to stop early due to an NFCI injury. Even though the Armed Forces job has risks, if your injury could have been avoided or handled better, you might have the right to ask for compensation. Contact our Military Claims Solicitors for free advice on legal matters.

However, serious, life-long injuries do occur, and victims are advised to get legal advice from a Personal Injury Solicitor that specialises in Military Accident Claims on whether there may have been breaches of duty, giving rise to a potential claim for compensation.


Time Limits on Claims

If you’re thinking of making a claim, you need to be aware of the time limits that are in place. If you plan on making a military claim through the civil courts, then this process must start within 3 years of the incident.

The exception to this rule is if the patient is younger than 18 years old or they don’t have mental capacity. Additionally, you may be able to get an extension beyond this if you have an exceptional reason, but you must provide evidence as to why you weren’t able to open a claim any earlier.

Simpson Millar can help by offering legal advice on your case, so you know exactly what you can do and by when.


What You Can Claim For

When you are putting your claim forward, it’s important to consider all the factors that are involved, including your physical injuries, emotional and mental trauma, and rehabilitation.

It’s also vital to consider your employment. If you are in the military and you suffered an injury that resulted in loss of work, you may be able to seek compensation for this.

In a civil claim, you can recover some compensation to help cover for losses that you have incurred. These losses can include:

  • Loss of earnings
  • Loss of military service benefits
  • Loss of pension
  • Loss of employment


How Long a Claim Can Take

It’s incredibly difficult to give an estimate on how long a claim can take. There’s no single answer to this question, as every case is different. Your claim will be considered based on its individual circumstances and isn’t compared to any other similar claims.

The length of time your claim takes will depend on several factors, including the exact circumstances leading up to and after the incident, the full extent of your injuries, and how long your recovery is expected to be.


Cost of Claiming Compensation (No Win No Fee)

We may be able to help represent you under a No Win, No Fee agreement. If your case is not successful, then you don’t have to pay anything towards legal fees. For a full overview of your claim, get in touch with our expert team today.


Ministry of Defence Duty of Care

If you’re in the military, then the MoD has a duty of care to its employees. The MoD must adhere to the legal requirement of making sure that their employees are cared for and protected. Part of this requirement is making sure that avoidable injuries don’t occur.

If you have an issue with safety measures, you should contact the relevant personnel by going through the chain of command. As a result, it’s advised that you first contact your local safety advisor to resolve the issue internally. If you feel that it cannot be resolved internally, you can seek other options.

If you are in the military and developed Trench Foot because of lack of care, you may have a claim for compensation for a breach of duty.


How to Make a Claim

If you've developed Trench Foot and believe it's due to someone else's negligence, we're here to assist. Our Military Solicitors can guide you through your situation. Just reach out to us via phone, email, or our enquiry form to get started.

Our solicitors specialise in cold injury compensation and will provide a free consultation to understand your case and discuss your legal options.

At Simpson Millar we deal with many personal injury claims on a No Win, No Fee basis. So, why not get in touch today and speak with our team who are ready to listen.

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Gavin Hughes

Partner, Military Claims Solicitor

Gavin is a Partner in our Personal Injury department and Head of the Military Accident and Injury Claims team. He also runs his own caseload of military personal injury cases.

Gavin shows a personal touch with his clients and works closely with them to achieve the best results.

He is a robust and determined litigator and has secured many six and seven-figure settlements for clients throughout his career.


CDC (2019). Trench Foot or Immersion Foot |Natural Disasters and Severe Weather. [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:

Cherney, kristeen (2017). Trench Foot: Symptoms, Causes, Pictures, and Treatment. [online] Healthline. Available at:

Bush, J.S. and Watson, S. (2020). Trench Foot. [online] PubMed. Available at:

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