What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

Did you slip and fall when you went to mail a package at the post office?

According to ‘sovereign immunity’, you cannot sue the government unless the government says you can. However, because of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), certain kinds of lawsuits against Federal employees are allowed – as long as the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

The Federal Tort Claims Act, established in 1946, is the legal mechanism for compensating people who have suffered personal injury due to the negligent or wrongful actions of employees of the United States government.

In short, it allows private parties to sue the United States in a Federal court for most torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the United States.

The FTCA was created to provide monetary compensation for injury, property loss or death “caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Federal government.” The following are guidelines regarding the limitations on FTCA claims:

  • Only Federal employees can be sued
  • In certain cases, independent contractors, if treated like employees, can be sued
  • The negligent conduct must have been done within the scope of the defendant’s employment
  • Only claims of negligence are allowed
  • The claim must be based on, and permitted by, the law of the state in which the misconduct occurred

In order to sue under the FTCA, you must file a claim with the Federal agency responsible for the alleged misconduct, such as the United States Postal Service. The fastest and easiest way to prepare your claim you should obtain a Standard Form 95 (SF-95) – Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death (PDF | requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

You have two years from the date of incident to file your claim. The form must be completed and showing the exact amount of money damages you are claiming, as well as facts about your case in order for the Federal agency to investigate.

Once your claim is submitted, the agency has six months to respond. If the agency rejects your claim or does not want to pay all you are asking for, you have six months from that date to file a lawsuit. Wait until the agency rules on your claim before filing a lawsuit.

If you believe you have a claim for negligence against a Federal agency or employee, you must first determine whether you can sue the Federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. For further information about this process, contact the Tort Branch of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Civil Division. Or seek legal help, discuss your claim and an attorney can help you determine if you have a strong case.

Contact the personal injury law offices of Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi to discuss your case, your legal options and your rights. We have offices in Fort Lee, New Jersey and New York City for your convenience. Visit us online for full contact information, or submit our contact form.