What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
If a federal government agency or one of its employees injures you, you may be able to recover damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA.
Historically, citizens couldn’t sue the king under the principle of sovereign immunity. Nowadays, sovereign immunity still stands, but the FTCA outlines some circumstances under which citizens may sue the government.
In the context of automobile accidents, the FTCA becomes relevant when the at-fault driver is working for the federal government. If a federal employee such as a postal worker or a federal law enforcement agent causes an accident in which you sustain injuries, you’ll need to follow the FTCA’s procedures to recover a damages award.
The FTCA Governs How Citizens Can Recover Damages From the Government
Imagine that a US Postal Service truck rear ends you during your morning commute. The procedure for collecting compensation for your injuries or car damage would be different than if a privately owned truck had hit you. But, just like in any other accident, you would need to show that the postal truck driver:
- Failed to drive with ordinary care, or was breaking the rules of the road
- That this breach of duty caused your injuries
If the accident happens in Illinois, than the FTCA mandates that the auto accident laws of Illinois apply to your case. Thus, you would need to prove negligence or even gross negligence according to the specific requirements of the state of Illinois.
In addition to making a showing of negligence, the FTCA mandates that accident victims prove that the at-fault driver was acting within the scope of his or her duties to the federal agency employing them. In most cases in which a postal service truck or other federal agency vehicle is on the road, it is likely that it is performing some official function.
The First Step Is to Open an Administrative Claim
Once you identify the federal agency that caused your injuries, you’ll have two years to submit your claim. You can download the standard form 95 at the Department of Justice website, fill it out, include any evidence you find relevant to your case, and that submit it to the agency from which you hope to recover.
The agency will have six months to respond to your claim. If they decide to not compensate you, you will have six months to sue from the date of their decision. If you do not hear back from the agency after six months, you can consider it as a denial of your claim, and you can file suit.
Suing the Federal Government
Once you have exhausted your administrative remedies—in other words, the federal agency has refused to compensate you—you can file a suit in the federal district court of the state in which your injury occurred.
Although some people successfully represent themselves in federal court, it’s best to hire an experienced attorney to guide you through the process if there are significant damages on the line.