Claims Against the Government- Federal Tort Claims Act of 1946, 28 U.S.C. § 1346
If you or a loved one have been harmed or injured by a government employee or agent while on the job, you may have a claim against the Federal Government. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows individual or their family to pursue the government for recovery of damages for negligent acts such as medical negligence, vehicle accidents, negligence in Veterans healthcare treatment, federal law enforcement activities, or physical injuries within government facilities or on federal land, for example.
Typically, the federal government has the right of sovereign immunity that effectively protects it from liability from civil claims. However, the FTCA exists to provide an avenue for legal action against the government under certain conditions. Essentially, if the US government were a private person and would face liability for a claimant’s damages due to negligence or the performance of (or failure to perform) a discretionary duty or function, the claimant can pursue damages under the FTCA.
Why Do I Need an FTCA Attorney?
While the basis of your FTCA case may align with how civil personal injury claims function, the reality is that suing the US government and pursuing any legal action under the FTCA is a much more complex process than a standard personal injury claim. Additionally, the FTCA limits eligibility to take legal action against non-active duty military members, such as civilian spouses, military dependents, and retirees.
Attorney Aaron Meyer has extensive experience handling cases under the FTCA and knows how daunting it can be to approach the US government with a claim. However, you must not be intimidated by your situation and understand that you have the legal right to pursue compensation for your damages under the FTCA. As your FTCA attorney, Aaron Meyer will exhaust every possible avenue for compensation to help you maximize your recovery under the full extent the law allows.
The administrative claim process under the FTCA requires filing a Standard Form 95, available from the US Department of Justice. While it is not strictly necessary to use a Standard Form 95 to initiate your FTCA administrative claim, using this form can provide a convenient way to ensure you provide the appropriate federal agency with all the information required to begin processing your claim.
Federal Civil Rights Claims- “Bivens Action”
If the violation or harm involves a violation of Constitutional rights, the Federal offender may be personally sued under a “Bivens Action.” So if a prosecutor, federal agent, or other federal actor violates your First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth Amendment rights, you may actually be able to sue for recovery on your damages. “Bivens” is essentially the vehicle for a civil rights claim against a Federal employee individually.
These cases involve complex procedure and first require initial administrative claims to be made with the appropriate federal agency before you may actually sue. The claims are typically made on a “Standard Form 95” claim form from the Department of Justice. After the filing of the claim, the relevant agency has six months to respond before you may file suit.
Military Member Claims
A court-created exception to the FTCA called the “Feres Doctrine” has traditionally served to prevent military servicemembers themselves from suing the Federal government, no matter how egregious or terrible the harm was to them. However, several recent court decisions have allowed even military members themselves to sue the Federal Government in certain circumstances that did not involve courts second-guessing military-specific decisions or affecting good order and discipline of the military. So, typically, if your claim or wrong is “incident” to the scope of military service, then suit may unfortunately and unjustly be barred. However, even military members themselves have potential options.
Military Family Member Claims
Despite the difficulty that may exist for active servicemembers to recover damages for harm to them personally, family members have no such bar. For instance, if, as an active duty servicemember, your child or other family member is negligently injured or harmed in a military hospital, you may bring a claim against the government for the entirety of your damages.
What to Expect From Your FTCA Claim
Attorney Aaron Meyer can help you approach the FTCA legal process with greater confidence. The basic governing principle behind any FTCA case is negligence. If a federal agency or employee of a federal agency committed any type of negligence, you must establish the elements of negligence and provide clear evidence of your damages. The statute of limitations for filing an FTCA claim is two years from the date the incident in question occurred. You must submit an administrative claim to the federal agency responsible for your damages within this two-year window.
Your FTCA attorney can help you complete the paperwork necessary for your administrative claim and locate supplementary documentation you must submit to support your claim. While the two-year statute of limitations may seem generous, the exact date on which your claim initially arose may come into question as your case unfolds, so it is crucial to begin the claim process as soon as possible.
Your administrative claim to the federal agency responsible for your damages must include a complete accounting of your evidence and damages. You must provide the defendant federal agency with the information and evidence they need to investigate your claim. Upon submission of your claim, the agency has six months to deliver a ruling on it. Once the federal agency delivers its ruling, you have another six months in which to file your claim unless you find the agency’s ruling agreeable.
If the defendant agency fails to deliver a ruling on your claim within the initial six-month window following submission of your claim, you do not have to wait to file your claim. If this occurs, your attorney can provide you with professional guidance to determine the ideal timing for filing your claim. It’s vital to remember that the FTCA requires you to exhaust all available options for administrative remedies before filing your claim.
Available Damages in Your FTCA Case
It is vital to remember that if you intend to pursue an FTCA case, the rules for handling your case come down to state law for the state in which your claim originated. State law also determines the types of damages available if your claim is successful and applicable limits for those damages.
Plaintiffs pursuing FTCA claims must also remember that the amount of compensation they seek through their FTCA claims may not exceed the damages listed in their initial administrative filing. The only exception to this limitation would be if newly discovered evidence indicates more substantial damages, but only if this newly discovered evidence would not have been reasonably discoverable before the claimant filed their administrative claim.
The damages available from an FTCA claim typically reflect the damages you could seek in a civil claim. However, it is vital to bear in mind that state law will dictate whether these damages are limited in any way. One key limitation is that the FTCA does not allow a claimant to seek punitive damages for wrongdoing against the government. Damages typically sought through FTCA claims include:
- Personal injury damages. If you suffered a physical injury or developed an illness due to a federal agency’s or federal employee’s actions, you can claim compensation for medical expenses and the cost of necessary long-term medical care resulting from the incident.
- Economic losses. If a federal agency harmed your business, caused measurable financial losses, or impaired your earning capacity, you can pursue compensation for lost income and other economic losses.
- Property damage. If a federal agency or federal employee damaged your property, such as your home, your vehicle, or other personal property, you could pursue compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing your property.
- Non-economic damages. It is possible to secure non-economic damages for your pain and suffering depending on the nature of your FTCA claim. However, non-economic damages are typically capped under state law. Your attorney can help you determine which state laws apply to your case’s claimed non-economic damages.
It is also crucial to remember that while you cannot claim attorney fees as damages in your FTCA claim, the FTCA itself limits the amount you must pay in attorney fees. If you successfully obtain an administrative settlement, your attorney cannot take more than 20% of the total settlement amount. If you file an FTCA claim, your attorney’s fees may not exceed 25% of the total assigned by court judgment or claim settlement.
Former Marine ready to aggressively pursue your claim now
Federal Tort Claims typically have a statute of limitations of two years, regardless of the injury. Thus, the sooner you speak with an attorney, the better. Aaron Meyer is a former Marine who knows the systems and procedures that surround government systems.
Aaron Meyer Law can handle your case anywhere from assisting you with assembling and filing a Form 95 claim form or in a later lawsuit against the government agency involved. If you think you or a loved one have a claim against the government, do not hesitate to contact Aaron Meyer Law for a free and confidential sit-down consultation.