In 1946, Congress adopted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Under the FTCA, individuals may bring a claim against the U.S. government for money damages for injury to or loss of property, personal injury, or wrongful death if the following elements are met:
- The injury was caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission (but not intentional conduct) of an employee of the U.S. government; and
- The injury occurred while that employee was acting within the scope of her office or employment.
Examples of claims that can be brought against the United States can include:
- Medical malpractice at a VA hospital;
- Car accidents caused by an on-duty federal employee (FBI agent, military personnel, etc.); and
- Slip and fall at a federal building (e.g. the Post Office).
Errors amounting to medical malpractice can and do happen at even the best of health treatment facilities, including VA health centers. The difference is that when pursuing a claim for malpractice occurring at a VA health facility, the claimant cannot file suit against the VA health center or a VA health center employee directly, because the facility is always immune from suit, and the employee is immune from suit, so long as he/she was acting within the scope of his/her employment. Instead, claims for medical malpractice committed at a VA health center must be filed against the United States.
Likewise, claims arising out of car accidents caused by federal employees acting within the scope of their employment cannot be brought against the employee individually, either. Here again, such individual would be immune from suit. Thus, any claims arising out of a car accident caused by a federal employee must also be filed against the United States.
Similarly, claims arising out of a slip and fall at a federally owned/managed building often must be filed against the United States.
Regardless of the theory of liability, be it medical malpractice, a car accident, a slip and fall, or anything else, anyone with a claim against the United States must first pursue an administrative claim for the full amount of damages suffered, and they must do so within two years from the time they learn of the existence and cause of their injuries. Any such claim may be made on a standard Form 95, available from the offices of most government agencies.
The federal agency involved (Department of Veterans Affairs; Department of the Army/Navy/Air Force; etc.) has six months to review the claim and decide how to proceed. The agency may decide to pay the claim in full, settle the claim for less than the requested amount, or reject the claim. If the agency rejects the claim, or if the six month time period expires, the claimant may then file a lawsuit in federal court.
The types of damages a claimant can collect pursuant to a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act are identical to the types of damages one could collect against any other liable party (driver, hospital, homeowner, etc.) in that jurisdiction.
At The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm we have assisted injured parties with FTCA claims. We assist with filing the appropriate Form 95 and assist our clients with filing a lawsuit, if necessary.
If you feel that you have been harmed by a federal employee, were the victim of medical negligence at a VA, or were injured on federal property, you may very well be entitled to recover damages under the FTCA, and you should call us toll free at 855-522-5291, or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and there are no attorney fees unless you receive compensation.