What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

When injuries or damages are caused by a federal employee's negligence that occurred within the scope of their employment or while acting on behalf of the federal government, the FTCA allows private citizens to sue the government for damages. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was passed by congress in 1946 to grant citizens recourse when suffering damages due to government negligence.

The FTCA allows claims under circumstances where the United States would be liable if it were a private person. However, there are numerous exceptions and the overall process differs significantly from that used for other tort claims. For this reason, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced law firm to assist you in navigating this complex process.


Filing a Federal Tort Claim


The FTCA has established specific rules for making personal injury claims under the act, so the process differs from the usual personal injury lawsuit. Before you can file a lawsuit, you must first exhaust the administrative claim process which can be complicated and requires advance preparation. It is also important to remember that there may be shorter deadlines than in an average personal injury lawsuit against a private entity.


Although an FTCA claim is a federal matter, state laws can affect numerous issues in your case. The interplay between state and federal law often introduces substantial complications which should be handled by a knowledgeable attorney.


In order to ensure the best chance of success with your FTCA claim, it should be pursued as soon as possible after the injury occurs. The best way to get started is to speak with a knowledgeable FTCA attorney who can review your tort claim and let you know if your case would benefit from legal representation.


How long do I have to file my claim?

There are a number of important deadlines involved in an FTCA claim. For example, you must present your claim to the proper agency within 2 years of when your injury accrued. It can sometimes be difficult to determine the accrual date of your injury and therefore it is advisable to begin investigating injuries promptly.

If the agency denies your claim, you have 6 months from the date that a final denial was issued to file your lawsuit.


Can military personnel sue under the act?


Generally, current and former military members may not sue for injuries that are incident to military service. However, if the injury was completely independent of your military service, then the FTCA will likely allow your claim. It is important to keep in mind that federal courts consider a number of factors in determining whether a particular injury was incident to military service, so it may not always be clear whether the act allows your claim.


What can I sue for under the FTCA?


Generally, you can sue for any torts that would be recognized under the laws of the state where the injury occurred. However, there are some important exceptions. For example, the FTCA does not allow you to sue for most intentional torts such as assault or battery, except within very narrow circumstances.

There are other statutory exceptions which relate to the employee's actions. For example, if the government employee is carrying out a discretionary function, the FTCA does not allow suit. The same is true if the claim is based on an act or omission by the employee when executing a statute or regulation, so long as the statute provided actions to follow and the employee exercised due care in carrying them out.

Deciding whether exceptions to the FTCA apply to your case often turns on a precise interpretation of facts. You should consult with an attorney to assist you in determining whether you have a claim.


Determination of Damages

There are some important aspects of the Federal Tort Claim procedures which will affect your determination of damages. For example, damages awarded in your lawsuit may not exceed the amount of your administrative claim unless there is new evidence that could not have reasonably discovered at the time the claim was made, or if there is proof of intervening facts. This means that it is crucial to have an accurate calculation of damages before filing your administrative claim to ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries.

When filing your administrative claim, you must state a "sum certain" of your damages suffered. This means that you must have a fixed or specific amount of money that accounts for the damages you have suffered. The best course to ensure full compensation of injuries is to consult an attorney as early as possible.