What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

Passed in 1946, The Federal Tort Claims Act allows private citizens to sue the federal government for injuries caused by federal employees.

Before the Federal Tort Claims Act, U.S. citizens were prohibited from suing the government under the “sovereign immunity” doctrine. Elements of sovereign immunity still exist, which is why you can only sue the government for certain things, but the Federal Tort Claims Act is an important step in federal employee accountability and liability.

If you believe you have a case for negligence against a federal employee or agency, first you must determine whether or not your claim is allowed under the FTCA. The fine print of the Federal Tort Claims Act is complicated and allows for a wide variety of exceptions and special rules. However, there are a few general guidelines that are helpful to keep in mind:

  • Only federal employees can be sued under the FTCA, not independent contractors—unless they are treated like employees
  • The negligent or wrongful conduct must have occurred within the scope of the defendant’s employment
  • Generally speaking, only claims of negligence are allowed (as opposed to intentional misconduct); in certain cases, claims for intentional conduct against federal law enforcement officers are allowed
  • The claim must be based on and permitted by the law of the state in which the misconduct occurred

Filing a claim under the FTCA is subject to a number of complicated restrictions, and if you think you have a claim against a federal employee or agency, it is important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Proving a claim against a government entity is often much more complex than a typical personal injury claim, and there are special time limits and rules that must be followed. As such, it is important to consult an experienced New Jersey lawyer as soon as possible; the sooner an attorney can review your case, the sooner they can review the evidence and file the appropriate paperwork.

If you wish to file a lawsuit against the government, you must give formal notice of the claim within 90 days of the car accident. After filing the initial notification, you are required to wait six months to file a lawsuit. (During this time, the government agency will typically reach out to you to resolve your claim. With the help of an attorney, you can decide whether you would like to resolve your claim with the city or file a formal lawsuit.) After a formal notification is filed and six months have passed, you can file a formal claim against the government.

It is important to note that, regardless of who the claim is filed against, you must file it within two years of your injury. This is the case with all personal injury claims in New Jersey—not just government-related lawsuits.