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Claims of negligence against businesses and individuals are common. But what happens if you’re injured on government property? Perhaps you have whiplash after being rear-ended by a postal truck. Can you sue the federal government for negligence?

Federal Tort Claims Act

In some cases, the answer is yes. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) makes it possible to sue the government under certain circumstances. However, suing the federal government isn’t as simple as suing a citizen or a business. The FTCA has several limitation and restrictions concerning lawsuits. And there is fine print that only an attorney can decipher.

For this reason, hiring an expert attorney in your area is essential for successfully filing a lawsuit against an agency of the federal government. This is especially true if the case involves a wrongful death. For instance, a wrongful death attorney in NYC would be needed if your spouse was killed as a result of government negligence occurring on Long Island. A similarly qualified attorney in LA would be best if the incident happened in Long Beach.

Here is some more info on why suing the United States government is difficult but not impossible:

Claims Against the Federal Government

As a general rule, you can’t sue the federal government without the government’s permission. You’d think the government would just always refuse to let anyone sue. But in 1946, the FTCA was enacted to allow citizens to sue the government under certain circumstances.

What Claims Does the FTCA Allow?

The purpose of the FTCA is to provide financial compensation for death, injury, or property damage caused by a federal employee. But in order to qualify, your claim must meet strict criteria.

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You have two years in which to file your administrative claim. You’ll need to provide details about what happened and the damages that were caused

For example, you can’t file a claim for injuries caused by an independent contractor working for the government. A federal employee must cause your injuries. And cases involving intentional misconduct are generally not allowed. Intentional misconduct means the federal employee purposely disregarded your rights and safety knowing that it would cause harm. Generally, claims are confined to cases of accidental negligence.

Filing a Claim

The first step is to file a claim against the agency that caused your injury. So if your injury occurred at an immigrant detention center, you would file the claim with the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS would then review your claim, which is officially known as an administrative claim.

The administrative claim form is Standard Form SF 95 or 95. Obtain the form by requesting a copy from the federal agency you’re suing or from the website of the Department of Justice.

You have two years in which to file your administrative claim. You’ll need to provide details about what happened and the damages that were caused. The claim must also include the exact amount of compensation that you’re seeking. The agency you’re suing will investigate your claim, so make sure it's accurate.

The agency must respond within six months. If the agency agrees that your claim is valid, it may pay part or all you’re asking to avoid going to court. But if the agency denies your claim or refuses to pay anything, then you have up to six months to file an official lawsuit.

Exceptions to the Two-Year Rule

If the agency doesn’t give you a decision within six months, you have two options. First, you can go ahead and proceed with your lawsuit. Second, you can continue to wait for an official response. The six-month deadline begins only after the agency has provided an official response to your claim.

Suing the Federal Government

Suing the government isn’t an easy task, but it’s possible. If you feel you’ve got a valid claim, then the FTCA might work in your favor. Speak with an attorney for more guidance on FTCA rules and regulations.

Jeremy Biberdorf