What do you do when you have been injured by the negligent act of a United States government employee? You can pursue a claim against them under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). 28 USCA §1346(b). Under the Act, Congress has allowed claims against the United States for injury, property damage or death caused by the negligent acts of government employees where the United States, “if a private person, would be liable to the claimant….” This is not to say that the process is easy. There are several exceptions and administrative hurdles, and anyone undertaking such a claim should make sure he is working with a person knowledgeable of the laws.
First, let’s consider the limitations to the FTCA. The USA cannot be liable for punitive damages, regardless of how egregious the conduct may be. US Attorneys may also assert defenses for judicial or legislative immunities, such as qualified immunity, which holds the government immune from liability if the alleged negligent action involves the exercise of a discretionary function. There are several other exceptions to coverage under the FTCA, which include but are not limited to claims involving assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contractual rights.
If you have a valid claim under the FTCA, you must make sure you comply with the stringent administrative filing procedures. First, the time to file your claim is two years from the date of injury. Before that time runs, you must file an administrative form known as a Form 95. Once this form is filed, the United States can either approve or deny your claim. If they have done neither within six (6) months, you may then file a lawsuit in federal court. If they deny your claim, you only have six months after the denial in which to file your lawsuit. When filing the lawsuit, you do not name the actual individuals as defendants. You name the United States of America and serve the US Attorney General and the local US Attorney for the district where suit was filed.
Finally, if you are lucky enough to avoid a dismissal for summary judgment, you will only be granted a bench trial. The right to trial by jury does not extend to claims under the FTCA.
Bottom line, this is a complex area of the law that grants rights to injured individuals but must be handled by someone knowledgeable in the intricacies and complexities of the Act.