Cooney Law Office

Federal Torts

When a person is injured by an employee of a federal agency, such as a military or V.A. hospital or facility, the person bringing the suit must sue the federal government. Although the government usually has “sovereign immunity” that bars lawsuits, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows an individual to bring a claim against the government for personal injuries or death resulting from negligence or malpractice.

The FTCA applies to all non-active military personnel who have received substandard medical care from military or V.A. facilities located within the United States. Not every one may sue under the FTCA. The “Feres Doctrine” prevents military personnel from bringing medical malpractice claims for treatment received while on active duty. Dependents of active duty military personnel, such as spouses and children are not barred from bringing claims under the FTCA.

Federal law details the procedure for filing against the government. There are strict time limits that must be followed. The FTCA requires that an administrative claim be filed in a timely manner for the full amount of damages suffered. The government entity has six months to review the claim and decide how they wish to proceed. Settlement at an early stage is a possibility, but often the claim is denied. Once the claim is denied, the FTCA requires the plaintiff file a lawsuit in Federal Court within six months from the date of rejection. If the government agency does not respond within six months, that may be construed as a rejection.

There is no right to a jury trial under the FTCA. A judge will decide whether or not the federal government will be liable and will issue a monetary judgement for damages, if warranted.