Can I Sue Under the FTCA?
In general, the FTCA is intended to provide monetary compensation for injury, damages, property loss, or death that are caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government. But like everything else with the USA it is not so simple, and the rules are complex.
The limitations and exceptions are too numerous to review here, but here are some general thoughts regarding the limitations, which can relate to FTCA claims:
- Only federal employees can be sued under the FTCA, not independent contractors hired by the federal government, with some exceptions.
- The negligent or wrongful conduct must have been done within the scope of the wrongdoer’s employment with the USA.
- In general, only claims of negligence claims are allowed.
- The claim must be based on and permitted by the law of the state(s) in which the misconduct occurred. Negligence can occur in more than one state, particularly when families move so much, this issue becomes critical. The classic example is a woman who has mammograms at three different military installations, all of which are read as normal, and all of which should have diagnosed her developing breast cancer. Remember you can sue where you live, or where the negligence occurred.
Each year the USA pays out tens of millions of dollars to compensate for injuries that fall under the FTCA. If you think you may have a valid claim and because the statute of limitations is so short and complicated, please call us immediately to determine if we can protect your rights.
If we determine you and/or your family members do have a valid FTCA claim we will complete the claim form for you and your family members and deliver it on your behalf.
Filing an Administrative Claim or SF 95
In a normal lawsuit claiming negligence, you proceed more or less straight to court. But if you wish to sue under the FTCA, you must first file a claim with the federal agency responsible for the alleged misconduct. For example, if your claim is based on an accident at the post office, you would file your claim with the U.S. Postal Service. During this phase of the process, while your claim is being reviewed by the federal agency, it is referred to as an “administrative claim.”
We recommend all claimants use a Standard Form 95 also known as an SF 95, which has fill in the blanks for all the information you will need to provide. You can get a copy of the form online or request a copy from the federal agency to which you will be submitting your claim.
Administrative claim process works:
- You must file within two years of the date it “accrues” under the FTCA. You have two years from the time your claim accrues to deliver your administrative claim with the appropriate federal agency. Who you deliver the claim to Because the exact date when your claim arose may be a legal issue in your case, it is important to file your administrative claim as soon as possible to avoid any chance of it being rejected as untimely.
- Include facts and damages in your claim. Your administrative claim must include the exact amount of money damages you are claiming, as well as enough facts about your case to allow the federal agency to investigate the merits of your claim. Using a SF 95 form will help ensure that you’ve included all of the necessary information.
- The agency has six months to respond. Once your claim is delivered, the federal agency has six months to review the claim and make a decision. In some very rare cases, the federal agency may “admit” your claim (that is, agree that your claim is valid) and agree to pay you some or all of the money damages you demanded, and you may not need to go to court.
- If your Claim is denied you have six months, less a day, from the date on the denial letter to file a lawsuit. It is important your lawsuit is filed as soon as possible after receiving this decision to avoid any chance of having your lawsuit dismissed because it wasn’t filed in time.
- You don’t have to sue until the agency makes a decision about on your Claim, as long as your claim has not been denied. If the federal agency fails to rule on your Claim by six months after the date the Claim was delivered then you have the choice to either wait for the agency’s decision (good luck with that!) or going ahead with your lawsuit. As long as the federal agency is still considering your claim, and has not sent you a letter of denial, there is no time limit by which you must file a lawsuit in federal court; the six-month time limit for filing suit begins to run once the agency has ruled on your Claim. Be on the lookout for denial letter!
- Once you have exhausted your administrative remedies you are eligible to file a lawsuit in court to pursue money damages from the government.