In personal injury accidents, you have the right to file claims against the party at fault.
However, there are times when the other party may not be so easy to sue—which is the case when the federal government is the negligent party in a personal injury accident.
Government entities cannot be sued without their consent because they are under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) enables you to file certain types of lawsuits against federal government entities and employees who’ve acted within the scope of their jobs while causing injuries.
What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
If you are injured in any type of traffic accident involving government vehicles, you have the right to claim damages against the negligent government entity. These include cars, motorcycles, trucks, and buses owned by the federal government. You also have the right to claim damages for premises liability involving federal government facilities. But these claims should all be filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
The FTCA is a federal statute that provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, enabling private entities to sue the United States government for damages, loss of property, personal injury, and death. However, you should know that the government cannot be sued without its consent. In other words, if you want to sue the federal government for any wrongful acts, you need to follow FTCA rules and procedures.
Understanding the FTCA Statute of Limitations
In case the government can be sued under the FTCA, make sure that you file your claim as soon as you can. In general, the statute of limitation for filing torts cases in California is two years. In contrast, under the FTCA, you must file a claim within six months after the injury took place.
The government agency may accept or reject your submitted notice of claim—and you should receive a response within 45 days. However, if the government agency does not respond within this timeframe, then you have two years from the date the accident took place to file a court lawsuit.
No Right to Jury Trials Under the FTCA
When cases cannot be settled immediately, they are transferred to the United States District Court. According to the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act, you do not have the right to jury trials. This means, when the case is handled by the United States District Court, they will act as the main fact finder.
Nonetheless, the parties are still required by the district judge to provide documented Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law in writing before the trial. Along with these, the claimant must still present evidence and call witnesses; only in this scenario, the district judges will settle the case.
Can the Government Always Be Sued Under the FTCA?
The general rule is that the federal government has sovereign immunity from suit. But the Federal Tort Claims Act applies when its employees have acted negligently and caused personal injuries through their behavior.
For example, government cleaners failed to warn passersby about a wet floor, which resulted in a slip and fall accident, or a government driver hits a vehicle or pedestrian while driving negligently in a government-owned vehicle.
However, in cases where the accident was due to the negligence of private contractors hired by
the government, then the appropriate federal agency does not allow itself to be sued for damages. In this case, the best thing to do is to seek personal injury damages against the private contractor and not the government entity. The only exception is when the government treats said contractor as an employee.
Understand that not all personal injury claims can be filed against the government. So after being involved in an accident with a government entity, the first thing you should do is ascertain your claims, which must demonstrate the following:
- A government employee caused your injury or damaged your property.
- That government employee acted during his or her duties.
- That government employee acted negligently.
Seek Legal Advice From an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’ve suffered a loss or injury due to the negligent behavior of a person acting on behalf of the US government, then you should seek the assistance of an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer.
Mesriani Law Group can guide you in all aspects of your FTCA claim, including injuries that occurred on federal land and medical malpractice claims against the Veterans Administration. Experienced attorneys can walk you through the process and assist you in case you don’t understand specific details about the FTCA. They can also help you plan the next step if a federal agency denies your claim.