What is the Federal Tort Claims Act? | Scartelli Olszewski, P.C.
federal tort claims act

What is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.
Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

Believe it or not, you can sue the federal government. If a government agency or employee does something that injures you due to negligence, you may be able to file a civil suit claim. However, it is not the same as filing a lawsuit against another civilian. It’s incredibly difficult to sue the federal government because of what is called sovereign immunity. This is a long-standing principle under common law that says that civilians cannot sue the government.

This is so that you don’t have every civilian in the United States trying to sue the government, stalling the government’s ability to do its job. But as we said, there are special circumstances where you can sue the government. These are outlined by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and if you’ve never heard of this, the personal injury attorneys at Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. can explain.

What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a United States federal law that permits private parties to sue the federal government. Civilians can bring their case to a federal court for acts committed by agents acting on behalf of the federal government. The FTCA was passed in 1946, and has since provided a limited loophole around the federal government’s sovereign immunity. This is limited specifically to when government employees are negligent within the scope of their employment.

Under the FTCA, the government can be sued “under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” In layman’s terms, this means that if the United States were a private person and would be responsible for the act someone is filing against them, then it will treated as so now.

It’s important to note, however, that the FTCA includes a number of exceptions where the government is still immune from a lawsuit. This includes:

  • Discretionary functions
  • Intentional torts except when committed by federal law enforcement officers
  • Claims arising in a foreign country
  • Claims arising from the fiscal operations or monetary regulation by the Treasury or other federal agencies

The FTCA also requires that a claimant exhaust all administrative remedies with the appropriate federal agency before filing a lawsuit. This means that you must first file a claim with the federal agency responsible for your injury. Then only if the agency denies your claim or fails to respond in a timely manner can you file a lawsuit.

What is a Tort?

Tort is a legal term to reference a wrongful act or infringement of someone else’s rights. It’s an easier way to describe acts that hurt people out of negligence.

Examples of How Someone Can File a Lawsuit Through the FTCA

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows people to sue the federal government when a wrongful act or negligence by a federal employee on duty causes injury, death, or property damage. Here are some examples:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Federal Employees: If a federal employee negligently operates a government vehicle and causes an accident, injured parties may sue the government under the FTCA. This could include postal service trucks, FBI vehicles, or military transport, for example.
  • Injuries on Federal Property: If someone is injured due to dangerous conditions on public property that’s handled by the federal government, they may be able to sue the government under the FTCA. An example of this would be if a visitor to a national park is injured because of poorly maintained facilities or infrastructure.
  • Negligence by Federal Law Enforcement: If a law enforcement officer of a federal agency, like the FBI or DEA, commits negligence that causes someone harm, a lawsuit can be filed under the FTCA. However, intentional torts by law enforcement, such as assault or false arrest, are generally exempt unless they violate the Constitution or federal law. These may even lead to the agent being met with criminal charges which will make it difficult to sue the government rather than the officer.
  • Wrongful Actions by Federal Agencies: If a federal agency, like the IRS or EPA, makes an error or acts negligently and this directly causes you harm or financial loss, it may be possible to sue under the FTCA.

What Should You Do When the Government Causes You a Personal Injury?

If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of a federal employee, it’s crucial to have experienced attorneys by your side. At Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., our skilled personal injury attorneys are adept at navigating the complexities of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). We can consult on your case, help you understand if you can use the FTCA to sue the federal government, and guide you through the rigorous legal processes involved.

We want to ensure you are aware of all of your options so you can take care of yourself and your family after your ijnury.  Not even the federal government should be able to leave you injured without the means to help yourself. Contact us today for more information.