Prior to legislative actions in 1946, the federal government basically had immunity from civil lawsuits. Today, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) constitutes a limited waiver of sovereign immunity and allows citizens to file tort claims against the government and its agents. If the negligent behavior of a federal employee causes loss of life, property damage, or personal injury while they are performing their job, the victim or their survivors may have the right to seek compensation to the same extent as from a private individual in similar circumstances.
Claims against the government or any government employee involve complex laws and can be further complicated by special protection and provisions. First, federal torts are presented in a federal court as a bench trial (heard before a judge only), so there are obvious differences in how your legal team will approach the presentation of your claim. Although the court will apply the laws of the state where the act, accident, or omission occurred, it is imperative that your attorney has experience in the bench trial process.
At Spohrer & Dodd, our Jacksonville federal tort claim attorneys have provided stellar representation and have a strong record of successful verdicts and settlements in serious personal injury cases where the negligent party was a government agent, employee, or contractor. Military medical malpractice is an important part of our FTCA practice.
For a free, confidential review of your case, call (904) 637-7721 or contact us online.
Who Is Eligible to File in Federal Tort Claims?
Filing a malpractice claim against the government requires compliance with a rigorous set of rules and procedures and may take a substantial amount of time to conclude. Active duty service personnel are generally ineligible to sue the United States for injury sustained while in service. The exception to the FTCA dates back to a 1950 Supreme Court decision known as the FERES (pronounced “fairies”) Doctrine.
Other circumstances that impact the viability of a federal tort claim include:
- Status of negligent person
- Location where negligence occurred
How Federal Tort Claims Differ from Civil Suits
Even though the FTCA assigns responsibilities similar to those of a private citizen committing the same act, there are certain limitations outlined in the act that can apply. For example, after Congress passed the FTCA, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s immunity (the FERES Doctrine) for cases involving active members of the armed forces who sustained injuries in the course of duty. Since other sources exist for compensation of their injuries, active-duty service members cannot bring a lawsuit against the government.
Some basic limitations and exceptions regarding FTCA lawsuits include:
- Only federal employees can be sued
- Only for claims of negligence
- Only within the scope of employment
- Only if permitted by the laws of the state
Again, numerous circumstances can apply when bringing a suit under the provisions of the FTCA. For example, contractors who are treated as employees may be liable for their actions. Additionally, certain federal law enforcement officers may be sued for intentional misconduct. Once it has been determined that you do have a valid claim, it must still be filed within strict time limits. Plus, federal tort claims must first be filed as an “administrative claim” with the federal agency responsible for the negligent act. This is typically accomplished using a standard government form (SF 95).
You may have the right to file a claim against the United States if you have been involved in an accident with a government vehicle, injured by a government employee fulfilling the responsibilities of their employment or damaged by the actions, or lack thereof, of government employees or contractors acting as employees in a veteran’s hospital. However, due to the unique laws that govern the process of making a claim against the government, seeking the help of an experienced federal tort claims attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome.
If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligent or unreasonable behavior of government employee or agency, contact our Jacksonville FTCA lawyers at (904) 637-7721 to determine your best course of action.