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Understanding Federal Tort Claims Act
What You Need to Know

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If you were ever wondering whether an individual could sue the United States government, well, based on my legal experience, I could tell you that they absolutely can.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a United States federal law that allows private citizens to sue the government for money damages arising from the wrongful or negligent act of government employees acting within the framework of their employment. In this article, I’ll discuss FTCA and how it works.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • There are three Federal Tort Claims Act programs, The United States Postal Service, The Department of Veterans Affairs, and The Bureau of Prisons
  • The FTCA  allows people to sue the government for certain torts (negligence)
  • If you file a tort claim, the agency will investigate it to see if they should pay you. If they don’t pay you, you can appeal their decision to a united states district court

What is a Federal Tort Claims Act?

Close up shot of lady justice holding scalesThe Federal Tort Claims Act is a law that provides private citizens the chance to sue the government for certain torts (negligent or wrongful acts). The FTCA is a law that was passed in 1946. It allows people to get money for personal injury, death, or property loss or damage caused by a federal government employee who was careless or wrong [1].

The FTCA generally allows people to resolve any money issues with the United States government if the United States government injured them. This happens when the United States would be responsible for the injury if it were a private person.

“Employees and law enforcement officers of the federal government occasionally commit torts just like other members of the general public. For a substantial portion of this nation’s history, however, plaintiffs injured by the tortious acts of a federal officer or employee were barred from filing lawsuits against the United States by “sovereign immunity”—a legal doctrine that ordinarily prohibits private citizens from haling a sovereign state into court without its consent.”
Kevin M. Lewis Legislative Attorney

What are The 3 Federal Tort Claims Act Programs?

A judge's gavel handcuffed

There are three Federal Tort Claims Act programs, The United States Postal Service, The Department of Veterans Affairs, and The Bureau of Prisons. Let us talk about each program in detail.

1. The United States Postal Service

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is an organization that provides postal service in the United States. It is an agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government.

The USPS has exclusive jurisdiction over postal matters and is one of the few federal agencies that are self-funded.

2. The Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a Cabinet-level agency of the United States government that provides all kinds of benefits and services to veterans of the United States Armed Forces. 

The VA also provides benefits and services to the families of veterans, and it is the largest provider of health care to veterans in the United States.

3. The Bureau of Prisons

The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is a federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice. 

The Bureau of Prisons is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system, which includes managing inmates, providing them with medical and dental care, and preparing them for release back into society.

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Claims Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

Under the FTCA, individuals who suffer from personal injury or whose property is damaged due to a negligent or wrongful act of a government employee acting in the scope of his or her official duties can file a valid claim.

Based on the cases I worked on, some exceptions are known as the law enforcement proviso. However, in real life, if you think that you have a case under the FTCA, you will need to file a valid claim with the appropriate federal agency.

The agency will then investigate your claim and determine whether or not to pay you. If the federal agency denies your claim, you can appeal the decision to the appropriate federal courts.

Who Does the FTCA protect?

A state worker working on paperworkThe FTCA protects Federal government employees, Tribal employees, Public Health Service officers, and Certain contractors.

These people are protected from personal liability under the FTCA when they are acting within their scope of official duty. 

Who’s Not Covered by the FTCA?

The FTCA does not cover the following people: members of the military, federal prisoners, people who are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and people who the United States Marshals Service detains.

FAQs

Who is eligible to file a claim with EPA under the FTCA?

An individual or entity is eligible to file a claim with EPA under the FTCA if that individual or entity has suffered from a wrongful act proximately caused by the negligence of a federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.

How long will it take for the EPA to adjudicate my claim?

It typically takes EPA approximately 6 months to adjudicate a claim. However, the time it takes to adjudicate a claim may vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved in 

The Bottom Line

The Federal Tort Claims Act is a law that allows individuals to sue the federal government for personal injuries or property damage that was caused by the negligence of a federal employee. The FTCA protects federal employees from personal liability when they are acting within their scope of official duty.

If you think that you have a case under the FTCA, you should contact Schmidt & Clark for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Our lawyers can help you understand your rights and options under the FTCA, and we will do what it takes to get you the justice and compensation that you deserve.


References:

  1. https://www.epa.gov/ogc/federal-tort-claims-act-ftca

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