What if I'm injured and it's the federal government's fault?
With our federal government growing so much over the past several decades people are often placed in situations where they come into contact with the federal government or one of its agencies. Sometimes these agencies, or the people that work for them, are responsible for negligently causing someone a catastrophic injury. For example, a post office mail carrier could run a red light and cause an accident with oncoming traffic. Or, the FBI could raid the wrong house and injure those inside as a result.These scenarios and others just like them are actionable against the United States government under the cap Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Governments are typically immune from law suits brought by its citizens unless laws are passed permitting such suits. When the federal government or its agencies are responsible for a tort causing you injury, you are authorized to sue the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. That being said, there are limitations on Federal Tort Claims Act cases.
One such limitation is you can only sue the federal government for acts committed by federal employees, not independent contractors hired by the federal government. What this means is if the postman in the scenario above is working for the US Postal Service you can sue the federal government for him running the red light. However, if the postman is only contracted by the U.S. Postal Service to courier mail on their behalf the federal government is not liable under FTCA.
Another limitation under the FTCA is that the wrongful conduct must have occurred within the scope of employment of the federal employees position. Meaning, the postman must have been in the process of delivering mailor some other task related to his job. If he was simply driving through town to run a personal errand when he ran the red light, this claim may be barred under the FTCA.
Except for limited circumstances, only claims of negligence are permitted. What this means is that almost all intentional torts committed by federal employees that are not actionable under the FTCA. However, some claims for misconduct intentionally committed by certain law enforcement officials can be brought.
In reviewing the law regarding negligence for your case, you must refer back to the state in which the act occurred. For instance, if the red light running postman caused an accident in Texas, you must use the law regarding negligence of the State of Texas.
The first step in pursuing a FTCA case is filing an administrative claim. Said administrative claim must be filed within 2 years and be filed with the agency that was responsible for the employee committing the tour. For instance, in the postal worker running the red light scenario you would file your administrative claim with the US Postal Service. The federal government has a standard claim form known as Form 95 that has spaces for all the information you need to provide. Said form is available through the Department of Justice.
When filing your administrative claim you must include the exact amount of money are seeking as well as a description of the facts regarding your case that will allow the federal agency to investigate your claim. Said Form 95 has all the required spaces for you to complete this under the FTCA.
After you file or administrative claim, the agency has 6 months in which to respond. In its response the agency can admit your claim is valid and pay you some or all of the damages you demanded or, they can deny your claim at which time you'll then have 6 months to file a lawsuit in federal court.If the agency doesn't respond your claim within 6 months, you may either await the agency's decision or go ahead and file your lawsuit.
Once you file your lawsuit your case will be handled by the US attorney's office. They will represent the federal government and defending them against you. They will be responsible for trying to settle the case should they feel like an offer of settlement is viable. Most federal courts at the beginning of a lawsuit require the parties to come up with a scheduling order that has strict deadlines and dates for all processes in the lawsuit.
Pursuing a Federal Tort Claims Act case is a complicated process. It should not be attempted by a layperson as there are just too many hurdles to overcome and pitfalls to look out for. You need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled FTCA cases in the past to achieve the best results for you. If you're looking for one of these attorneys, please consider the attorneys at Guest & Gray who are skilled in handling these types of cases.