Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson is known throughout Georgia for representing victims of catastrophic personal injuries caused by the careless or intentional acts of others. Holding a reputation of being tenacious and aggressive advocates, our attorneys understand that when you’ve suffered an injury, it can be difficult to know where to turn. This process is even more daunting when the party responsible for your injury is the United States government. Taking on a defendant as well-equipped as the federal government is no small task, but the attorneys at Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson have years of experience representing victim’s rights against some of the most prominent names around. Because we work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy that fits your needs, we can employ our skills to aggressively fight for everything you need to get back to living your life. If you believe you have a claim or if you have any questions regarding the Federal Tort Claims Act, contact our office today.
Most state and local governments prevent citizens from suing the government for injuries caused by intentional or negligent acts under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a concept providing the government cannot be held accountable for civil or criminal legal wrongs. Under sovereign immunity, many lawsuits filed against state and local governments end up going nowhere.
Sovereign immunity generally applies to the United States federal government as well. However, in 1946, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows citizens to pursue claims against the United States in the case of specified civil wrongs.
Federal Tort Claims Act
Interestingly enough, Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act after a plane flown by a military member crashed into the Empire State Building, killing 14 people. The United States offered compensation to the survivors and victims. Some accepted, and others filed lawsuits, spurring Congress to act.
The Federal Tort Claims Act serves as a waiver of sovereign immunity for certain wrongs, referred to as torts in the legal context. A tort is an infringement on a right that leads to civil liability. The Federal Tort Claims Act allows citizens to pursue claims of negligence against the federal government. Negligence is a legal theory that allows a victim to recover when a defendant fails to act reasonably under the circumstances, and that failure causes harm or injury.
Under the Federal Tort Claims act, even if an individual employee is responsible for the injuries, the defendant in the action is the United States, not the employee.
Specific requirements for suing the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act:
- Generally only allows recovery for claims based on negligence
- Can only sue federal employees, not independent contractors hired by the federal government
- Claim must be one that is allowable in the state in which the injury occurred
- Must go through administrative channels before filing a lawsuit
Examples of claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act include accidents occurring on federal property or facilities, traffic accidents involving federal agents, or medical malpractice by Veterans Administration doctors.
Aside from negligence, some victims of intentional torts, such as assault or battery by a federal law enforcement officer, may be able to recover. Liability generally applies only to non-active duty members of the armed forces.
The Federal Tort Claims Act requires that before filing a lawsuit, a victim must first file an administrative claim with the government agency alleged to have caused the injury. For example, if you allege an injury occurred at a post office, you must file a claim with the United States Post Office before filing a lawsuit. You must file an administrative claim within 2 years from the date the injury occurred. You should include all facts and the total amount of damages you are claiming in your administrative claim. The government agency has 6 months to respond to your administrative claim.
If the government agency admits to the allegations alleged in your administrative claim, it may agree to pay some or all of your damages. If you disagree with the agency’s resolution of the claim or the agency denies your claim, you have 6 months to file a lawsuit in federal court.
The Federal Tort Claims Act places limitations on damages if you end up filing a lawsuit. First, you can only sue for the number of damages claimed in your prior administrative claim unless additional damages are discovered. Second, you may not seek an award of punitive damages against the United States. This means any judgment may not punish the government for its wrongful actions; it may only compensate you for your injuries.
Because the Federal Tort Claims Act places strict limitations on damages, it is essential to evaluate all the damages you suffered due to your injury before filing your administrative claim with the responsible government agency. Often, those who are physically injured suffer damages down the road that were not apparent right after the injury. Things such as long-term medical care or loss of earnings often result from a severe injury and should be accounted for when calculating damages. Accordingly, it is important to discuss any potential long-term damages with a seasoned personal injury attorney before filing an administrative claim.
Benefit from Our Experience – Contact Our Georgia Federal Tort Claims Act Attorneys Today
If you have never been involved in a legal action before, satisfying all the requirements can be a confusing and arduous process. At Griffin Durham Tanner & Clarkson, we have years of experience filing claims on behalf of victims in personal injury cases. We have taken on tough defendants such as the United States government. Our experience handling these matters is a valuable asset when recovering for injuries caused by the federal government. Our attorneys understand how injuries impact your life and will not stop fighting until you receive the total compensation you deserve.