Can I sue the federal government for injuries I sustained due to carelessness or wrongful conduct?
Yes. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), Congress has enacted a waiver of the United States sovereign immunity privilege. Thus, the federal government cannot hide behind the shield of the Constitution to avoid being sued for damages.
The Federal Tort Claims Act Information
FTCA allows an injured person to sue the federal government when an employee of the government commits negligence or a wrongful act or an omission that causes the injury of another person. Exceptions to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA):
There are several exceptions to FTCA. One exception occurs when a claim is based upon an act or omission of a government employee who is exercising due care. This occurs when a federal statute, regulation, or policy specifically prescribes a course of action for an employee to follow and that employee uses due care in exercising the statute, regulation or policy. The next exception is called the discretionary function exception. This allows government employees based upon the exercise or performance or failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of the federal agency or an employee of the government. The third exception bars lawsuits for any claims arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matters. The fourth exemption blocks claims arising in respect of the assessment or collection of a tax or customs duty. The fifth exemption prohibits claims arising out of intentional torts for assault or battery by federal employees. The sixth exception bars claims for false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process. There is another exception that bars claims for libel or slander, misrepresentation, deceit and for interference with contract rights. Another exemption is called the foreign tort exception, which bars claims arising in a foreign country. Lastly, the combatant activity exception bars all claims arising from combatant activities.
How do I make a claim against the federal government?
Congress has established an administrative procedure by which claims can be settled against the government without litigation. This requires that all claimants file a claim with the federal government prior to filing a lawsuit. Thus, a claimant must exhaust all administrative procedures before he or she can file a lawsuit.
The process of an administrative claim requires that the claimant present a written claim to the appropriate federal agency within two years of the claim’s accrual. The claimant must state a sum certain of the damages suffered and identify the conduct involved. The government requires a special form (Form 95) that asks for all of the required information. Once the claim has been properly filed with the appropriate agency, such agency may informally negotiate a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached or the federal government declines the claim, the claimant may file a lawsuit against the government. The government has six months to consider a claim. If a lawsuit is filed before six months have expired, the claim will be denied.
Only federal district courts have subject matter jurisdiction over after FTCA cases. Venue is proper only in a federal district where the plaintiff resides. There is no right to a jury under the FTCA, as all cases are tried to the bench (before a judge). Lastly, only the United States can be sued under the FTCA, as this Act does not provide a vehicle for suing individuals or federal agencies.
There is a two-year statute of limitations on all FTCA cases. This requires that the administrative claim be presented in writing to the appropriate federal agencies within two years after the claim accrues. A claim accrues when the claimant is in possession of the critical facts that he or she has been hurt and who has inflicted the injury.
Federal employees who commit tortuous acts have special protections from personal liability. The FTCA provides important defenses for these individuals. First, a federal employee is completely immune from tort liability arising from acts or omissions within the scope of their federal employment. Next, there is a complete defense to any suit against a federal employee if an FTCA judgment has been entered by reason of the same subject matter. Lastly, a federal employee cannot be sued by the United States for indemnity even if their negligence resulted in a FTCA judgment and state law would allow a private employer to bring such a claim against its employee.
FTCA awards of damages are governed in most respects like state damages laws. No award can exceed the amount claimed administratively, and FTCA bars punitive damages. There is also no prejudgment interest and there is a limit on post judgment interest.
The lawyers at Gonzales & Poirier have successfully represented hundreds of clients. Each case is handled with extraordinary care. The client’s interests are priority, not the lawyers. We almost always cut our fee to make sure you receive as much money as possible in any settlement. Our firm handles all types of accident and negligence cases such as automobile and motorcycle accidents, truck and bus accidents, slip & fall, medical malpractice, wrongful death and other types of personal injury cases. We handle cases in Flagstaff, Holbrook, Winslow, Williams, Sedona, Cottonwood, Prescott and other parts of the State. Please call us today if you have any questions at (928) 774-5400. Otherwise, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may visit our website at www.triallawyersaz.com and www.triallawyersaz.com.
If you have questions or concerns about the Federal Tort Claims Act contact the Law Office of Gonzales and Poirier. This article should not be used as a substitute to the advice and consultation of an attorney.
~The Law Office of Gonzales and Poirier