War artist claims in Afghanistan
2 December 2014
A veteran war artist on his fourth trip embedded with the British Army in Afghanistan was shot in the arm by a Taliban sniper, suffering permanent disability to his left hand.
Graeme Lothian from the UK is an ex-soldier himself. He captures army life through the medium of oil painting. Graeme was out on manoeuvres with a Scottish regiment when the incident happened. Graeme explains:
“We were out on patrol in a Mastiff armoured vehicle. We stopped to search the water culverts under the road for IEDs. The patrol had just declared the area safe and we were walking back to the vehicle in full body armour in 48-degree heat when I suddenly felt a dreadful pain in my arm.
“I instantly knew I had been shot”
“I instantly knew I had been shot. My trousers and boots were covered in blood. My first thought was how to get out of danger. I managed to get myself behind the armoured vehicle. Meanwhile the sniper hit another member of the patrol – he sustained a deep flesh wound – so two of us were now injured.
“The regiment returned fire towards a compound on a slight rise where the sniper was located, over one kilometre away. As soon as it was deemed safe, the patrol radioed for medical support and we were picked up by a US army Black Hawk helicopter and taken to the hospital in Camp Bastion. I underwent surgery there to clean the bullet track, which had entered my forearm, travelled through my wrist and exited through the palm of my hand.
“Three days later I found myself on an army medical transport plane back to the UK where I was admitted to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham and treated with regular army casualties. I had to have a plate and pins installed in my arm and wrist.
“The big problem for me is that the injury is to my left hand, which is the hand I paint with. The thought of not being able to paint again was devastating.
High-risk disability insurance
“I always arrange high-risk Personal Accident insurance through Bellwood Prestbury before I travel, which includes disability cover. I contacted them as soon as I could. Stuart Dix at Bellwood Prestbury had organised the cover for me and he was fantastic. He seemed genuinely concerned for my welfare. He told me that he would log the incident with Lloyd’s but that we would be better off waiting to see the full extent of the injury before we made a claim.
“We waited until I had completed a series of treatments. At this point it was clear that although I had good movement in my thumb and forefinger, my other three fingers were locked in a claw-like position. The movement in my wrist was also restricted.
“This has obviously had a serious impact on my ability to paint. It has other impacts too. I was a good guitarist and played golf to a high standard. I have had to give up both of these.
“When we eventually logged the claim, Stuart explained what the maximum compensation level for permanent disability was under the terms of my policy. I have friends in the insurance business and they told me to expect an initial low offer from the insurer. If lucky, I might then be able to push the claim up to 50% of the total amount, but I might incur legal costs in challenging it.
“I was delighted to get a full settlement”
“In the event, after Stuart had negotiated with Lloyd’s of London, he rang me to say that they would pay the maximum allowed. I was really delighted to get a full settlement without having to engage in a lengthy negotiation.
“I’ve always found Bellwood Prestbury to be a professional, helpful and friendly outfit when arranging insurance for my trips. But it’s not until you have an incident like this that you find out how good a firm really is. I’ve been really impressed and would recommend them to anyone who is heading out to one of the world’s riskier places.
“At the end of the day, the compensation won’t give me proper movement back in my painting hand, but what it has done is give me money to live off while I learn to adapt the way I paint.
“I have a seven-foot canvas in front of me right now, and I’m pleased to say I am beginning to get back to the standard I used to enjoy before that Taliban sniper ruined my day.
Categories: Global personal accident insurance