Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, an individual is allowed to sue the federal government for personal injuries and property damages, if negligent actions by the government or a federal employee were responsible.
Suing the Government
Most government agencies, including the state and federal government, have sovereign immunity which prevents lawsuits from being filed against them. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows private citizens to file lawsuits against the government.
Under the FTCA, the federal government is liable for the negligent or wrongful acts of its employees acting within the scope of their official duties. When a lawsuit is filed, the federal government is named as the defendant, not the individual employee who caused the injuries or damages. The FTCA permits private lawsuits with certain restrictions:
- Only federal employees can be sued
- Only claims based on negligence are permitted
- Negligent or wrongful actions of the federal employee must occur within the scope of regular employment
- A claimant must prove he/she was injured or his/her property was damaged by a federal employee
- A claimant must prove the federal employee’s negligent or wrongful actions caused his/her injuries or property damages
- A claim must be based on state laws where negligent actions occurred
Filing a Federal Lawsuit
The majority of FTCA lawsuits involve slip-and-fall accidents on federal property and vehicle accidents caused by federal workers. Medical malpractice lawsuits filed by veterans receiving medical care through the VA Hospital also make up a significant amount of cases.
Filing a lawsuit against the federal government is much more complex than filing a lawsuit against an individual through a personal injury lawyer. The government requires prior notification of a claim, and a claimant must provide documentation showing that the claim satisfies all restrictions of the FTCA.
Injury claims must contain written medical reports from licensed physicians explaining the extent of injuries, medical treatments, and expenses incurred. Property damage claims must contain at least two repair valuations from licensed mechanics showing exact dollar amounts, not price ranges or estimates.
Claims against the government must be filed with the appropriate agency in the geographical location where the incident occurred. Once the claim is submitted, the agency has six months to accept or deny the claim. If a settlement is offered, the claimant can accept or deny the offer. If the claimant files a lawsuit, the statute of limitations to sue the government is six months, a much shorter time frame than individual lawsuits.