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Federal Tort Claims Act

Definition - What does Federal Tort Claims Act mean?

Created in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows an individual who was injured from the negligent actions of a federal employee, who is acting within the scope of his or her employment, to file an injury claim against the Federal Government for compensation for their injuries or loss due to property damage.

To win a federal tort claim the plaintiff must prove they have a valid claim. Specifically, the plaintiff must prove they were "injured by a Federal Government employee; the employee was acting within the scope of his official duties; the employee was acting negligently or wrongfully; and the negligent or wrongful act proximately caused the injury or damage of which he complains." The plaintiff must produce evidence, such as documentation, which establishes all necessary elements of their claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

How difficult is it to sue the Federal Government?

Suing the Federal Government is much more complicated than suing a private individual. In fact, unless you can prove you have a case and can sue the government under the FTCA the government will probably bar your case claiming sovereign immunity.

So whether you have slipped and fallen in a government building or if a CIA agent has hit you with their car, the process to file a civil claim will start by filing an administrative claim with the agency who you believe is responsible for the negligent actions or injury.

Claimants can use the Federal Government's standard claim form which is called a Standard Form 95 or SF 95. This form can be downloaded from the Department of Justice's website. Claims should be filed as soon as possible, but statute of limitations for all claims is two years. The responding agency will review your claim and respond to you within six months. If the agency refuses to pay or rejects your claim you have six months to file an injury lawsuit. The six month statute of limitations will not start until the agency has ruled on your injury claim.

Rules governing the FTCA

There are several exceptions to the FTCA. For instance, you may be barred from suing if the negligent worker is contractor and not a government employee; if the injuries did not occur while the worker was performing their normal job duties; the lawsuit is barred under state law; or the claim is for intentional misconduct rather than neglect.

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