What is a Tort?
The term “tort” refers to any wrongdoing or injury caused by someone else’s failure to fulfill a legal duty. Under United States tort law, federal employees are not personally liable for most torts they commit in the course of their work. Instead, the federal government provides an exclusive remedy for such tort claims called the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Established in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) gives people the ability to hold the U.S. government responsible for wrongdoing committed by its employees or agents in the course of their employment. The act removes the federal government’s immunity from certain types of tort claims and gives the government responsibilities much like those of a private citizen. This system allows citizens to file civil suits against the government with the help of federal tort claim attorneys. If a private citizen committing the same act would be liable under tort law, the federal government can also be held liable, unless certain limitations stated in the act apply.
Tort Attorneys with Proven Experience
In some respects, Federal Tort Claims Act medical malpractice cases are quite different from ordinary tort cases. In such a case, the injured party may not file a lawsuit against the government until he or she has exhausted all administrative remedies. This person must first file an administrative claim with the proper agency of the United States government within a set amount of time. This is typically done by presenting an FTCA tort claim form, Standard Form 95. The federal tort attorneys at Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham and Jacob, PLLC, have decades of experience representing injured persons at the administrative claim stage and throughout trial in federal courts all over the United States.
Our federal tort claim attorneys have a strong record of success in serious personal injury cases in which the negligent party is an agent of the government. In fact, our firm obtained two of the largest Federal Tort Claims Act medical malpractice judgments in United States history.
Dickerson v. U.S., an FTCA medical malpractice birth injury case resulted in a $44.71 million trial judgment, reduced to $20 million after appeal, in which our clients received $15.75 million after attorneys fees and case expenses. Lebron v. U.S., another FTCA medical malpractice birth injury case resulted in a $32.67 million trial judgment, reduced to $23.25 million after appeal, in which our clients received $18.96 million after attorneys fees and case expenses.
Federal Tort Claims Act cases can involve several areas of personal injury law. The Act applies when someone is injured in one of the following ways:
- Military Base Hospitals Medical Malpractice. Patients harmed by negligence or error while receiving medical care on base or at a military medical facility are eligible to file a medical malpractice claim under the FTCA.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) Malpractice. Those who received poor care that led to serious injury or illness at a VA medical facility may file an FTCA claim for medical malpractice.
- Military Truck or Vehicular Wreck. Injuries sustained as the result of a collision with a vehicle owned by the U.S. government are covered by the act as well. This includes military vehicles, postal trucks, and other government owned vehicles operated by an employee or agent of the U.S. Government while in the course of their employment.
- Medical Malpractice at a Federally Funded Clinic. There are thousands of clinics across the nation that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Medical malpractice claims that arise out of the negligence of a provider at such a clinic who is deemed an employee of the federal government are subject to an FTCA claim.
- Premises Liability on Federal Property. Depending on the circumstances, persons injured on federal government property (e.g. a federal courthouse, office building, or post office) due to the negligence of a government employee may be able to recover damages under the FTCA.
- Injury Caused by a Federal Government Agency or Entity. If you are injured by an employee of an agency of the federal government or another such entity (e.g. FBI, NTSB) in the scope of employment, you can file a federal tort claim.
- Vehicle Accident Involving Federal Employee. If you are injured by a vehicle driven by an employee of the government, you can file a claim under the FTCA.
- Personal Injury by Federal Employee. Any other type of unintentional injury not otherwise mentioned above but caused by the negligence of a U. S. government employee would also fall under the umbrella of the FTCA.
Am I Eligible To Bring A Claim?
- Is there a statute of limitations for FTCA cases?
If you have been injured (or if a loved one has died) due to the negligence of an employee or agent of the U.S. government, and the negligence and/or injury happened within two years, you may present a federal tort claim. The statute of limitations for FTCA cases is two years from the date the claim accrues.
- How can active duty service members file a claim?
Until very recently, active duty service members were prohibited from filing an FTCA claim by something called the Feres Doctrine. However, the SFC Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act of 2019 changed that for medical malpractice claims. The Act allows active duty service persons to present medical malpractice claims against the Department of Defense.
- Are you a victim? Here are some examples of FTCA cases:
- Mistakes by labor and delivery room staff at a military hospital lead to serious, life-altering injuries of the infant.
- Failure to diagnose a brain tumor at a veteran’s hospital leads to a stroke and lifelong brain injury.
- A military doctor fails to timely diagnose and treat symptoms of cauda equina syndrome leading to permanent nerve damage.
- An Army truck driver speeds into stopped traffic, crashing into another car, killing one passenger and permanently injuring a driver.
- The driver of a postal truck failed to yield, striking another motorist who suffered permanent injuries.
How Do I Present A Claim?
It is important to present a federal tort claim correctly, and you must do so within two years of the date the claim accrues. The process is complex and a misstep may cause you to lose your ability to recover compensation for your losses. In order to get your federal tort claim case started, follow these steps:
- Gather all relevant records related to your injury. This might include medical reports, names of witnesses if there was an accident, physicians consulted for a second opinion, medical bills, etc.
- Calculate your past economic losses. This includes what you have spent on medical care, equipment, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses related to your injury.
- Make a list of your injuries and limitations. It helps to understand a “before & after” picture.
- Complete FTCA tort claim form, Standard Form 95, with the help of an experienced FTCA attorney. An experienced attorney may want to hire experts to evaluate your case and to estimate your future medical needs.
If you are suffering from a catastrophic physical injury due to the carelessness of the United States government, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Contact a federal tort attorney to find out if you are eligible to be compensated for your losses.
You can see our national success on our case results page. Here are just a few of the cases we have won against the Army, Navy, Air Force, VA, and Postal Service: