Can I Sue the US Government in a Car Accident or Injury Case?
If you have been injured on property of the United States government, or were injured in a car crash or otherwise caused by a federal worker while the worker was at work, you may be able to sue the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The FTCA has many requirements for lawsuit eligibility and filing, and a very short time frame in which an action may be brought. As a result, if you have a claim against the government, it will be important to contact an injury lawyer familiar with the FTCA process as soon as possible after your injury so that your claim can be properly and timely filed.
What is the FTCA?
The FTCA is a unique legislative vehicle allowing a citizen to sue the federal government. Until the adoption of the FTCA in 1946, citizens could not file a lawsuit against the federal government under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” This means that prior to the adoption of the FTCA, if you were hit and killed by a mail carrier while that person was delivering the mail, there was no one that your family could sue for your death.
After a tragic plane accident killed a number of people who were left without recourse to sue, Congress passed the FTCA. Today, if you suffer a slip and fall injury at your local post office or are injured in a car crash caused by an on-duty FBI agent, you could potentially file a claim under the FTCA.
While the federal government now can be sued, there are numerous restrictions and exceptions governing such suits, including:
- Only federal employees can be sued under the FTCA, not an independent contractor hired by the federal government.
- The negligent or wrongful conduct of the federal employee must have been done within the scope of their employment.
- In general, only claims of negligence are allowed. This means that if a federal employee intentionally harmed you (such as if you are shot by a US forest ranger), you cannot sue the government.
- The claim must be based on the law of the state where the misconduct occurred.
The Range of Suits that May be Brought Under the FTCA
While car accidents caused by federal workers and falls and other injuries on federal property may constitute the largest number of FTCA claims, there are many other types of claims that may be brought. Notably, medical malpractice claims can usually be brought by veterans occurring in a VA hospital under the FTCA.
In addition to the types of claims there are also limits on damages that may apply in FTCA actions, which are based upon the law of the state pertaining to the case.
Bringing a Lawsuit Under the FTCA
Suing the federal government under the FTCA is much more complex than filing a personal injury claim against a private individual or even a company. There are a number of deadlines that must be met, specific forms that need to carefully completed, and mandated forms of notice that must be followed precisely in order to even bring a claim. The failure to comply with all such deadlines and filing requirements will usually result in the person losing the ability to seek compensation against the government, sometimes even if a minor error occurred.
If you have been injured by a federal employee or on federally-owned property, it is critical to speak to an experienced FTCA lawyer as soon as possible. The deadlines by which a claim and lawsuit may be filed are often much shorter than corresponding state law claims. As a result, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible after an injury occurs in order to preserve your rights.
Why You Need to Hire an Experienced Seattle Personal Injury Attorney
Our firm has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of those who have been injured, and the families who have lost a loved one. Importantly, our firm has significant trial experience. We will not hesitate to take a case to trial against other individuals, large companies, the State of Washington, or even the United States in pursuing justice and compensation for our clients.