Pursuing Claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)

By Peter DePaolis

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) permits Americans to do what for a long time they were unable to do – sue the federal government for injuries that a federal employee negligently causes. A New York mother did just that when her daughter suffered injuries during birth at a federally funded clinic. The lawsuit alleged that the little girl suffered severe and permanent injuries when doctors at the clinic failed to perform a Caesarian section.

Unfortunately, the mother failed to act on behalf of her daughter in a timely fashion. She sought the advice of an attorney over a year after the birth of her daughter, despite a counselor advising her months earlier that she should look into whether medical malpractice caused her daughter’s injuries.

Nearly two years after the mother consulted an attorney, the attorney filed an administrative claim. About a year after, the attorney filed a medical malpractice lawsuit under the FTCA. A New York federal court ultimately dismissed the mother’s claim for being beyond the FTCA’s two-year statute of limitations. A Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney can assist you in understanding the Federal Tort Claims Act and whether you might have a claim under the act.

How the Federal Tort Claims Act Works

Enacted in 1948, the Federal Tort Claims Act grants exceptions to the long established concept of “sovereign immunity” – the concept that a person could not sue the king. There are several requirements that a person must meet in order to file a claim or lawsuit under the FTCA. If a claim does not meet the requirements, it is unlikely that a person will be able to sue the federal government.

Some of the main requirements include:

  • The negligent party must be a federal employee and not a contractor whom the government hired.
  • The negligent conduct must bbe within the scope of the person’s employment. In other words, the employee must have been doing something related to his or her job at the time that the employee injured you.
  • The state law governing torts and negligence must permit the lawsuit in order for it to proceed against the federal government.

The first step when dealing with the FTCA is to file an administrative claim with the particular agency or department for whom the federal employee worked. You have two years to file your claim after the date of injury. When the clock starts on this deadline is often a matter of debate, so it is always best to file as early as possible.

After you file a claim, the agency has six months to respond. While the agency is considering your claim, you do not have to worry about any time limits to file a lawsuit. However, once the agency responds to the claim, you have six months in which to file a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit against any government entity – whether a local, state or federal one – can be a time consuming and frustrating process. Laws, fine print, exceptions and loopholes make it imperative to consult with an experienced attorney. If a government employee has caused injury to you or a loved one, contact a Washington D.C. personal injury lawyer at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. to discuss your options.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.