Because the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) creates a different process than normal tort claims against a private party, those injured by the federal government should find an attorney with specialized experience and skills who can guide you through the various pitfalls to bringing a case. It is important to present a federal tort claim correctly.
The process is complex and a mistake may cause you to lose your ability to recover compensation for your losses. One key requirement is to file a timely administration claim. Under the law, you must bring a claim against the United States within two years of the date the claim accrues. If you believe you had a claim, you should consult with an FTCA attorney so that you can get a frank evaluation of its merits and possible options for you and your family.
If you have a claim, another common mistake – one can significantly hamper the ability of an individual harmed by government negligence to recover – occurs during the administrative process. Unlike when you have a claim against a private party, to pursue a negligence claim against the United States, you must first complete an administrative form called an SF-95, such as the VA form available online. An SF-95 provides the relevant agency who has harmed you an opportunity to investigate and resolve the matter before any case is filed in court.
As part of the SF-95, you must identify a dollar value you are seeking for the claim. While the value a claimant seeks can be used by the government to determine whether and how much to pay, there is also a critical second reason to think carefully before filing your claim: whatever value you seek on the SF-95 is the maximum you can seek if you later file in court. Put another way, if you file a claim seeking $1 million and you later determine your damages are significantly higher, your $1 million total claimed on the SF-95 is going to be used by the government to limit your claim. Before filing a claim, carefully think through any possible damages you may be able to claim. After analyzing every possible area of damages, you should estimate the value associated with those damages, but keep in mind how the government can use that against you later in the event there is a suit filed.
The attorneys at Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson have significant experience litigating FTCA cases with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.