What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
Anytime a United States of America (U.S.) government employee injures someone if someone is injured on land owned by the United States government, or if a person is injured because of defective equipment owned or operated by the U.S., the injured party has the right to sue the U.S. government for damages. For instance, if you were in a car accident and a U.S. Post Office vehicle was responsible, you must sue the United States government; likewise, if you were injured due to a fall on U. S. government property, including a recreational area or National Forest or Park.
The ability to sue the US government for negligence comes from the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Historically, under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” subjects were not permitted to sue the king. Sovereign immunity has carried over to modern times in the form of a general rule that citizens cannot sue the government unless the government says you can. Fortunately, under the FTCA individuals are allowed to file lawsuits against the United States government. While many believe that making a claim against the federal government is the same as against any other negligent person or entity, the truth is that pursuing a claim against the federal government is a much more complicated process. Your lawyer must have a complete understanding of the process in order to maximize your recovery.
Because suing the federal government under the FTCA is trickier than suing a private citizen, you will have to jump through a number of hoops, and the lawsuits are subject to a lengthy and sometimes confusing list of limitations. Under the FTCA, before suing the government, you must first submit a written claim to the appropriate federal agency. This agency will then review the events surrounding your injuries. You have two years from the time your claim arises to file your administrative claim with the appropriate federal agency. Because the exact date when your claim arose may be a legal issue in your case, it is important to file your administrative claim as soon as possible.
Failure to do so may result in your claim being forever barred. If the federal agency rejects your claim or refuses to pay all the money damages you demanded, you then have only six months from the date on which the decision is mailed to you to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file suit during the prescribed period your claim will be forever barred.
In addition to benefiting from this shortened and complicated statute of limitations scheme, there are many other differences between litigating against the government and other parties.
Because of the inherently complex nature of FTCA claims it is imperative that if you have a claim for negligence against a federal agency or employee, you contact us as soon as possible in order to protect all your legal rights.
Tampa Personal Injury Attorney