William W. Hurst
Law Office of William W. Hurst, LLC
50 S. Meridian St., Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Generally, personal injury law suits can be filed and litigated in state court. A minor factual difference can change your state suit into a federal suit; for example, a slip and fall at a local diner is very different than a slip and fall at the post office. If your injury is caused by a federal employee or federal agency, where you can file a lawsuit will likely depend on certain factual circumstances.
The FTCA is legislation that provides individuals injured by federal employees a way to sue and recover for their injuries. Under the FTCA, federal employees are protected from litigation stemming from their acts while acting on behalf of the government; however, the United Stated takes the place of the employee as defendant. The United States district courts are granted exclusive jurisdiction of personal injury claims caused by federal employees, thus you will be subject to federal court procedure rules.
For the FTCA to apply, the injury must be “caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” 28 U.S.C.A. § 1346. “The United States is generally liable to the same extent as other property owners for personal injuries to invitees on federal property.” Gonzalez v. United States.
For example, a car accident caused by someone in their personal vehicle who happens to be an off duty postal worker, will not qualify for purposes of FTCA. Though in Schwartzman v. Carmen, the plaintiffs were allowed to pursue a case under FTCA when an illegally parked mail truck caused their accident.
In Gonzalez v. United States, a patron was injured at the post office due to the dangerous system of ropes used to guide those waiting in line. The court explained, “Personal injuries at post offices resulting from negligence of federal employees are precisely the kind of ‘run-of-the-mine accidents’ for which Congress intended to waive immunity in the Federal Tort Claims Act.”
Before filing a suit, an injured party must first file a claim with the involved federal agency. This claim must be in writing and sent to the correct agency within two years. It must include a sum certain and evidence of the loss (i.e., narrative report(s) from a doctor(s), medical bills, and medical records). If the agency denies the claim, then a law suit may be initiated any time in the next six months. If a claim isn’t filed within six months of the denial it will be barred.
When filing the lawsuit, if you believe the federal employee was on duty and acting in within the scope of employment, the suit should be filed in federal court with United States named as a party.
If you are unsure or unaware if the federal employee was acting in this scope, the FTCA has granted the attorney general the ability to remove a state tort case to federal court. If the attorney general certifies that the employee was working at the time of the incident, the case will be removed to federal court though the injured party must still exhaust all administrative remedies before the case can be heard.
If you have been injured by a federal employee, a personal injury lawyer will help you file appropriately and navigate the tricky rules involved in make a Federal Tort Claim.
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