If you suffer a personal injury because of the actions of a government employee, you might wonder if you can sue the federal government. In many cases, the answer is yes. However, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind when bringing your lawsuit.
It’s important to take the time to understand these additional aspects before deciding to pursue an injury case against the federal government. An experienced personal injury attorney can inspect the details of your case and offer helpful insight on what actions you should take, and your chances of success. Here’s what you need to know about bringing a claim against the federal government.
Can You Sue the Federal Government?
Yes, in many cases, you can sue the federal government for injuries that you sustain because of the negligence of a federal employee. There are a few exceptions, limitations, and different procedures for bringing a claim against the federal government than there are for bringing a claim against any other entity.
You need to be aware of the Federal Tort Claims Act, notice requirements, time limitations, and limitations for collecting damages. However, as long as you meet all of the requirements and you’re willing to go through the extra steps that are involved when you bring a claim against a federal agency, you can sue the federal government.
State Law Applies With Federal Jurisdiction
State law is what applies to the claim. You can bring your claim against the federal government under the same circumstances in which you bring a claim against a private person in the same location where the accident occurs. However, the federal courts have jurisdiction over the claim. You must file the claim in U.S. District Court where a judge decides the case without a jury.
What Do I Have to Prove to Win My Case?
You can generally bring your claim under the same negligence theories that you bring a claim against any other entity. You must prove that the responsible person breached their duty of care. In the case of a claim against the federal government, the person who breaches their duty must be a federal government employee.
If the employee breaches their duty of care, you must prove that they’re acting within the scope of their official duties when the breach occurs. If they’re running a personal errand or they’re otherwise doing things that are outside of their assigned, official functions, you may need to bring your claim against the responsible person directly. However, if they’re acting in the course of their employment duties, you’ve satisfied this requirement.
Finally, you must prove that the employee’s breach of their duty results in your injuries. This process is called proving causation. If you’re hurt because of something other than the employee’s negligence, you can’t look to the federal government to recover. However, if you get injured because of the employee’s negligent breach of the duty of care, you can bring your claim against the federal government for recovery.
You might sue the federal government when you’re in a car accident with a federal employee. For example, if you’re hit because of the negligence of a postal driver, you may have a valid claim against the federal government.
Another common claim against the government is a claim based on premises liability. For example, if you go to a social security office to file a claim only to slip on a wet sidewalk, you may have a valid lawsuit against the federal government for personal injury.
What About Contractors?
Generally, federal contractors are not treated the same way as federal employees. If you’re hurt because of the negligence of a government contractor, you typically have to bring your claim against the contractor directly. The only exception is if the government treats the contractor as an employee. In that case, you might have a factual dispute about whether the contractor is a federal employee or not.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
The 1946 Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is the legal basis for lawsuits against the federal government. Historically, courts in England and the United States ruled that you can’t sue the federal government. Because the federal government is like the king, and the king always wins, the general rule is that you can’t sue the federal government no matter how wrong they are or how terrible your damages.
Lawmakers didn’t think that was fair, so they passed the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Act allows lawsuits against the federal government in certain circumstances. However, there are notice requirements that don’t apply to suits against private individuals.
Notice of Claim
To bring a tort action against the federal government, you must give them a notice of your claim. You must file this notice with the appropriate authority of the specific government agency that you want to sue. The purpose of the notice is to give government officials time to review your claim. They may decide to pay your claim without even having to bring a formal lawsuit.
The form you need to provide notice is Standard Form 95. You need to state the exact amount of damages that you’re looking for. You must also give enough facts to allow government officials to conduct an investigation and make a decision. It’s important to make sure that your notice goes to the appropriate person at the right agency.
Timeline for Notice and Filing a Claim
The government has six months to reply to your notice. Once you receive their reply, you have six months to file your formal lawsuit. There’s also a strict two-year statute of limitations for bringing your claim.
There are a few ways that damages are limited. You can’t collect punitive damages for a claim under the FTCA. You also can’t collect pre-judgment interest on a claim. If you settle before you file a formal lawsuit, attorney fees can’t be more than 20 percent of the administrative settlement. If you submit a formal lawsuit, attorney fees can’t be more than 25 percent.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Claims against the federal government are more complicated than most negligence claims. You should have an experienced injury attorney on board right away to make sure that you comply with the many notice requirements and unique aspects that apply to a claim against the federal government.
Your attorney can sort through the details of your case to offer helpful insight on whether you should pursue a personal injury lawsuit, and what you will need to be successful. They can help you understand your rights and make sure that you cover all of the details as you bring your claim for recovery in the complex federal courts.