When a federal hospital or other government establishment is responsible for your injuries, the process for filing a claim is different than in a typical personal injury case, but an experienced West Virginia injury lawyer can help just the same. There are numerous laws that you must obey when suing the government. One such law is the Federal Torts Claim Act (FTCA). Understanding the FTCA and what it might mean for your particular case can help you know when and how to file your claim in West Virginia. When in doubt, talk to an attorney for help with this complex legal process.
Details of the FTCA
Federal legislators signed the FTCA into law in 1946. It is a statute that allows individuals to sue the United States in a federal court for wrongdoings that government employees commit in the course of duty. The FTCA lets citizens sue government hospitals and other entities in their states, within limits. Sovereign immunity, or the immunity of the government from liability, still exists in small part despite the FTCA. Citizens may only pursue some claims against the government. The United States will be liable to the same extent as any other defendant, except that it will not be liable for punitive damages or interest prior to judgment.
One can pursue a claim against the government in the federal courts, but the laws of the person’s individual state will apply, so federal and state laws can limit the government’s liability. There are exemptions from the FTCA, such as a case in which someone’s failure to perform a duty caused the injury. The FTCA also bars many intentional tort claims against the government. In a case against the government, there are different statutes of limitations and rules for filing compared with a non-governmental claim.
Under the provisions of the FTCA, 28 U.S. Code § 2401, an individual has two years from the date the claim occurs to present a written claim with the appropriate federal agency. Any person pursuing a civil action against the United States must file within six years after the right of action accrues. Anyone with a disability, or who is overseas at the time of the claim, has three years to file after the disability ends. Retain an attorney if you believe you have a case against the government. Understanding whether the law permits you to bring the claim can be difficult in light of the many rules and exceptions that exist.
How to File a Claim Under the FTCA
After you ascertain that you have grounds to file a claim against the government based on the rules of the Federal Torts Claim Act, start the process by notifying the entity of your intent to file. Do this in writing, in a formal letter (administrative claim) to the governmental body that will be the defendant in your case. The administration then has six months to investigate your claim. It will review the facts of your case and decide to either offer a settlement or deny the claim.
A settlement offer can mean avoiding the courtroom. Retain an attorney to help you negotiate a fair settlement during pre-trial mediation or settlement hearings. If the government takes no action, denies the claim, or does not offer a satisfactory settlement, you can then file your complaint with the courts. Your case will go to a full trial, in which you must prove: 1) a federal government employee caused your damages; 2) the employee was within his scope of official duties at the time of the incident; 3) the employee was negligent, and 4) the employee’s negligent act caused your injuries. Hiring an attorney can help you with these complicated claims.