Have you ever slipped and fallen in a post office? Did a driver with the United States Postal Service hit your car? Is it possible that a VA doctor misdiagnosed you? Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, you may be entitled to sue the federal government for negligence.
For best understanding the scenario one must go through how to file an FTCA claim and how to “exhaust your administrative remedies” before suing the federal government in court.
If you or a family member has suffered a serious bodily injury as a result of a government employee’s or agency’s negligence, However, suing the government for personal injury can be a tough and time-consuming process.
Those who obtain the best results are typically those who seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer who have prior experience with this type of case from the start.
The FTCA is a complicated piece of legislation.
If you have a competent personal injury lawyer on your side, you will have the best chance of clearing all of the procedural hurdles and overcoming the federal government’s esoteric legal defences.
However, this broad-sounding obligation comes with a lot of fine print.
You might be able to make a claim under the FTCA if you get hurt by a federal government employee who injures you while acting within the extent of their duties.The employee may be acting negligently or wrongfully, and the negligence or wrongful act causes you harm.
The notion of “sovereign immunity” historically barred ordinary citizens from suing the king. Sovereign immunity was extended to the United States government until the FTCA was enacted in 1946. In some circumstances, you can now sue the federal government, but you must follow special rules.
The FTCA is intended to compensate those who have suffered bodily harm, property loss, or death as a result of “any negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government.”
You may make an administrative claim within two years of the date you were harmed if you have documentation showing your claim fits these standards. Before you may sue the federal government in court, you must first submit an administrative claim.
Filing a Claim for Administrative Relief
In most cases, you can go immediately to court in a lawsuit against another person or business. However, before you may sue the federal government, you must first file an administrative claim with the federal agency that harmed you.
If you slipped and fell at the post office, for example, you would submit an administrative claim with the United States Postal Service.
The federal government’s Standard Form 95 is the simplest approach to draught your administrative claim (SF95). You can obtain a copy of the form online or from the government agency that harmed you.
The Administrative Claim Procedure
You have two years from the date of injury or property damage to make an administrative claim. If you wait too long, your claim will be rejected as untimely, and you will be unable to sue in federal court for monetary damages.
Include all damages and details in your claim
Your administrative claim must include the exact amount of money you are requesting as well as enough information about your case for the federal agency to investigate. The SF 95 will guide you through the information you must supply. Don’t undervalue your claim. You won’t be able to ask for more money in your lawsuit than you did in your claim unless you provide additional evidence (see below).
Your allegation has six months to be addressed by the agency
The federal government has six months to make a decision on your claim. In rare situations, the federal agency may “admit” your claim (that is, accept that your claim is legal) and offer to pay you some or all of the sought monetary damages. Alternatively, the agency may dismiss your claim or offer you less than you believe your claim is worth.
After that, you have six months to launch a lawsuit.
You have six months from the day the decision is mailed to you to initiate a lawsuit after the federal agency rules on your claim. Don’t put it off any longer. To avoid having your case dismissed as untimely, file it as soon as possible after obtaining the agency’s decision.
You are not required to litigate until the government has ruled on your claim.
If the federal agency does not rule on your administrative claim within six months, you have the option of either waiting for the government’s decision or filing a lawsuit. There is no time limit to bring a lawsuit in federal court while the federal agency is still evaluating your claim; the six-month time limit begins to run after the agency has ruled on your claim.
After you’ve exhausted your administrative options (as described above), you may file a lawsuit in federal court to seek monetary damages from the government.
Filing a Lawsuit in Federal Court
You must file your case in the United States District Court (the formal name for federal court) in the county in which you reside or where your claim arose. Assume you live in California but tripped and fell at a post office in Arizona while visiting your folks. You may bring a federal lawsuit in California or Arizona.
Unless you submit newly discovered evidence to back the larger demand, you cannot ask for more money in your lawsuit than you did in your administrative claim. You may seek compensatory damages (damages to compensate you for your losses), but not punitive damages (damages that punish the wrongdoer).
When you file your complaint in federal court, the procedure is the same as it is for any other litigation.
How to Resolve Your FTCA Claim
You have two options for resolving your dispute with the federal government. First, you will have the opportunity to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the government attorney assigned to your case during the administrative claim procedure (see above).
If you file a lawsuit in federal court, you will have a second chance to bargain with a new team of attorneys from the United States Department of Justice.
And, like with any personal injury case, if your damages are significant, hiring an attorney is likely to result in a better outcome.If your case is uncomplicated and you are not seeking a large sum of money, hiring an attorney may not make financial sense. However, keep in mind that a lawyer can assist you in determining the value of your case, and your claim may be worth more than you think.