Lawsuits Under the Federal Tort Claim Act

The Federal Torts Claim Act (FTCA)

This federal statute allows you to sue a governmental agency for any negligent act committed by an employee of that agency. Although allowed, filing a lawsuit under the FTCA is tricky requiring you to be aware of the procedure for the filing. In addition the lawsuits are subject to lengthy and sometimes very confusing list of limitations. Speak with a trial attorney from our team if you are considering filing a lawsuit against a government agency under this statute. 

Initially, under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity” you could not sue the king. As a general rule this doctrine still exists today.The federal government, however, has decided to allow it to be sued. This allowance was codified in the FTCA. It only allows certain types of lawsuits against federal employees who are acting within the scope of their employment.

If you believe you have a claim for negligence against a federal agency, you must first determine whether you can sue the federal government under the statute. If not, then in all likelihood the claim will be disallowed. The FCTA provides monetary compensation for injury, property loss, or death caused by the negligence of a federal employee. Although broad there are limitations. Only federal employees can be sued under the statute. Independent contractors are excluded. The negligent act must have been done within the scope of the federal employee’s employment. In addition, only negligent claims will be allowed. Intentional misconduct claims are generally excluded unless it involves a federal law enforcement officer. Finally, the claim must be based on and permitted by the laws of the state in which the conduct occurred. Once you past these hurdles, you must follow the next steps which include strict time limits.

In your garden variety lawsuit, you can always proceed straight to court if the matter cannot be resolved but if you want to file under the FTCA you must first file a claim with the federal agency responsible for the employee’s negligence. As an example if your claim is against the post office you would need to file a claim with the U.S. Postal Service. At this phase of the case, the matter is referred to as an “administrative claim”. The easiest way to prepare for this claim is to submit a Standard Form 95 or SF 95. On this form all pertinent information is contained within boxes which is simply filled out and returned to the postal service agency. You must be specific as this information will be used by the agency in making its determination of allowance. The following is how the administrative process works.

You have two years from the time your claim accrues to file your administrative claim. Because the exact date when your claim arose maybe an issue, it is important to file your administrative claim as soon as possible. This filing will avoid any chance of it being rejected as untimely. Your claim must include the exact amount of money damages you are claiming. It must also include sufficient facts to allow the federal agency to investigate the merits of your claim. Once submitted, the agency has six months to rule on it. If admitted, the agency will pay you some or all of the money damages that you demanded. If accepted, you would not need to go to court. If, however, the claim is denied or the agency refuses to give you all demanded compensation, you would have six months to file a lawsuit in federal court. Make sure you file the lawsuit within the six month period. It is important to note that you don’t have to sue until the agency rules on your claim. In other words if the agency fails to rule within six months, you have the choice of either waiting for the agency’s decision or going ahead with your lawsuit. As long as the agency is still considering your claim there is no time limit for you to file your lawsuit. The six month time period only begins to run once the agency has ruled on your claim. Once you have gone through these procedures, you can file your lawsuit in federal court.

Finally, attorney fees for FTCA cases is set by statute, 28 UCS 2678. Your attorney may charge 25 percent of any judgment entered in any litigated case or 20 percent of any award or settlement made by an administrative agency. If the attorney charges more, they will be subject to a penalty, jail or both.

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