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Common Questions and Answers About the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)

The below content is general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.  FTCA claims and litigation are very complex, and the answer to any question will depend on many factors.  If you are in need of an attorney for a claim against the government, please take the time to hire one who can fully understand your specific situation and advise you accordingly.

What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

The FTCA is a body of law that allows an individual to sue the United States government for injuries or death caused by a federal employee.

When was the FTCA enacted?

1946.  It was part of the Title IV of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.

Why was the FTCA created?

To provide compensation for persons injured by the acts or omissions of federal employees.  Up until the law was passed, Congress was handling these claims in a very inefficient manner.

What is unique about the FTCA?

The FTCA creates an exception to the longstanding rule that individuals cannot sue the government.  In other words, it provides a workaround the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Is the FTCA complicated?

Yes, incredibly.  The FTCA is a very complex area of the law that includes many exceptions, requirements, and nuances that don’t exist in legal areas such as individual verses individual personal injury litigation.

Can a person simply file a lawsuit against the government for an injury or wrongful death of a loved one?

No.  A injured person must first file a claim with the appropriate federal agency, which has an opportunity to try to resolve the case.

How long does the federal agency have to resolve the initial claim?

Six months.  A federal agency that first receives a claim for damages must deny it in writing within six months.  If the agency takes no action within six months, the claimant may file a lawsuit in district court.

How long does an injured person or family of deceased loved one have to file an FTCA claim?

Generally an FTCA claim must be filed within two years of when the injured person discovers the injury and learns who is responsible for it.  However, there are several exceptions and nuances that can affect the statute of limitations for Federal Tort Claims.

Are there exceptions that prohibit the filing of FTCA claims?

Yes, many.  There are dozens of situations where an FTCA claim may seem appropriate but is not allowed.

Can a claimant request and receive a jury trial in an FTCA case?

No.  All FTCA trials are before a judge only.

Can a claimant sue an individual under the FTCA?

No.  FTCA claims may only be brought against the United States government.   However, there are times when a federal employee injures another person while acting outside their position as a government employee.  In those cases, a lawsuit against the individual may be appropriate.

Where is an FTCA lawsuit – as opposed to an agency-level claim – filed?

An FTCA claim must be filed in the district court where either the claimant resides or the event took place which gives rise to the claim.

Can an FTCA claim be filed for injuries sustained overseas? 

No.  In fact, FTCA claims cannot be filed for injuries sustained in the District of Columbia or in the several U.S. territories.

Can a claimant file a lawsuit for more than the original claim filed with the federal agency?

No.  A claimant’s claim is limited to the amount requested at the agency level with a few exceptions regarding newly discovered information, etc.

Are there caps that apply to compensation recovery in FTCA cases?

No.  There are no caps on the amount a claimant may recover from the government.  However, there are caps on attorney fees as well as the amount that various government entities/persons can approve.

Can families of deceased individuals file claims under the FTCA?

Yes.  Claims under the FTCA can be filed by individuals who suffered personal injuries, owners of damaged property, executors or personal representatives of estates, and even some parties with insurance subrogation (i.e. reimbursement) rights.

Can active military service members file claims under the FTCA?

Generally no.  Active service members cannot utilize the FTCA for damages sustained while working in the course and scope of the military positions.  However, family members of active service members may file claims under the statute and commonly do when an injury is sustained on a military installation.

Can Veterans file claims under the FTCA?

Yes.  Vets can absolutely file claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act and many of the cases that get filed involved medical malpractice sustained at VA hospitals and healthcare facilities.

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