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Can I Sue the United States Government?

Legal AssistantPersonal Injury Law

Maybe you had a slip and fall incident at the local post office, and you ended up with a fractured ankle. Perhaps an FBI agent swerved past you on the freeway, causing you to lose control of your vehicle and ram into other cars. The point is – a federal agency or employee was responsible for your injury.

Naturally, the question on your mind would be – Can I sue the United States government? If so, how do I go about it? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is it Possible to Sue the US Government

The short answer is – yes, you can, but it’s not going to be easy. Filing a civil suit against the federal government is a lot harder than suing a private citizen. These lawsuits are marred with a complex list of legal limitations that may require you to jump through several hoops just to get the justice you deserve.

Historically, the doctrine of sovereign immunity made it impossible to sue the monarchy. That practice has carried over to modern rule, making it impossible to file a civil suit against the government unless, of course, the government allows it. That’s essentially what the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is – a means through which the government allows private citizens to sue it.

What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act

If a federal employee or agency acts negligently, causing you to suffer harm or injury in the process, the FTCA allows you to take civil action against them. Keep in mind that unless your negligence claim is explicitly allowed by the FTCA, chances are, it will be excluded by sovereign immunity.

Below is an overview of the claims covered under the Act:

  • You can only file a claim against an actual employee of the government and not a partner or independent contractor (unless the contractor is treated as an employee)
  • The act of negligence needs to have taken place within the employee’s line of work and not when they were off the clock, in which case they’ll be deemed to have acted individually
  • Only negligence claims are authorized under the provisions of the Act, as opposed to intentional misconduct (except for wrongful acts perpetrated by law enforcement officers)
  • The claim should be based on the existing personal injury and negligence laws in your state

Once you’ve established that your claim is covered under the FTCA and that you can indeed sue the United States government, you can now initiate the administrative process. You’ll need to submit it to the agency responsible for causing your injuries.

Who Is Covered Under the Federal Tort Claims Act

The Federal Tort Claims Act authorizes private citizens to sue the federal government, meaning it protects individual employees from personal liability when acting within the scope of their official duties. Federal employees and public health service officers are all covered under the FTCA.

What is covered? Acts of negligence or omission that are committed by covered employees within the scope of their employment. The FTCA does not cover deliberate torts such as fraud or battery.

Rules Governing the Administrative Remedies of an FTCA Claim

Justice mallet and FTCA acronym
Source: Shutterstock

The administrative remedies phase has specific rules you need to be aware of before filing a lawsuit in court. Here’s a brief overview of each.

Statute of Limitations

The FTCA claim statute of limitations is two years from the date of the incident in question. If you’re filing a medical malpractice suit, the clock starts ticking when you first discover your injury.

Provide Detailed Facts

When filing your claim, ensure it has detailed facts and information about how you sustained the injuries and the damages you suffered as a result. In addition, you’ll need to provide a precise figure to allow the federal agency that employs the person responsible for causing your injuries to investigate your claim and determine whether or not they’ll pay it.

Wait for the Determination Period

The agency has six months within which to respond to your claim. If it admits the validity of your claim, it may pay a portion of or all the damages you seek. You don’t have to go to court to enforce Federal Tort Claims Act settlements.

Sue In Court

If the agency’s offer to settle your claim is not satisfactory, you can file a formal lawsuit in a court of law. You’ll have six months within which to do this.

Only Sue After You’ve Received a Response

In some cases, you may not get a response from the government regarding your claim long after the six-month determination period has elapsed. You cannot sue in court before you receive a response. As long as your claim is under consideration, there’s no time limit to file a suit.

How to File a FTCA Claim

Once you have exhausted your administrative remedies meaning, you’re not satisfied with the offer you received from the federal agency; you can now file a lawsuit against the federal government.

To file an administrative claim, you need to fill out Standard Form 95 or SF 95 for short, which you can download from any federal agency website. Instructions on how to fill out SF 95 form and where to send it are provided on the document.

Some of the information you need to provide on the SF 95 form include:

  • The name of the appropriate federal agency
  • Your name, address, and date of birth
  • The date and time of the accident or incident
  • The basis of the claim
  • Information on the nature and extent of the personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage
  • Names and addresses of the witnesses
  • The amount of the claim
  • Information regarding the insurance coverage of the damaged property or vehicle

Once you’ve gone through the administrative process, only then can you sue the government in federal court to seek monetary compensation.

It is worth noting that the government pays out millions of dollars every year in Federal Tort Claims Act settlements. Therefore, despite the numerous limitations placed on these claims, it is worth pursuing if you believe you have a valid case.

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