Sometimes fault for a personal injury lies with the government. Governmental liability can be found, for example:
- When a person walks down a city street and falls in an uncovered manhole.
- When a person is hit by a US mail truck.
- When the police negligently cause damage to a person or their property.
- Various other similar injury situations.
These types of cases can raise some challenging issues due to the involvement of the government in the injury. However, it can still be possible to obtain a remedy in connection with such a claim.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
Traditionally, sovereign immunity provided federal and state governments and their employees nearly absolute protection against suit by a private party. Unless the government expressly consented to suit, private parties had no avenues of relief when bringing a lawsuit.
The legal doctrine behind sovereign immunity was based on the principle that protecting the government from civil claims maintains a stable government.
Over time, there was a shift between the interest of protecting individuals and encouraging governmental responsibility, with increased support for government accountability. As a result, the courts and the legislatures created laws that increasingly allowed for a narrower scope of governmental liability.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
In 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was passed to provide more avenues for waiver of sovereign immunity and defines the requirements for claims brought against the federal government.
Under the Act, the federal government waives immunity and recognizes liability for the negligence or intentional wrongful acts of its employees, during the course and scope of their employment. The federal government also waives immunity in contract matters where the government is a party to the contract.
Soon after the FTCA was passed, many states followed suit by passing their own tort claims acts, most of which are closely modeled after the FTCA.
Due to these reforms, individuals can now sue state governments and the federal government for personal injury. However, the scope of possible claims is narrow and the rules about when and how the claims are made are specific and must be followed exactly for a claim to be valid.
For example, the FTCA requires that all claims against the government be written claims, be filed within two years of the incident, and damages specifically stated in the claim.
What are the Rules for Filing a Claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act?
There are many specific rules that limit whether a private person is eligible to file a claim under the FTCA. The FTCA only creates governmental liability for the negligent or willful conduct of a governmental employee while that employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment.
The FTCA has indeed permitted claims for governmental liability since it was enacted. However, despite this, the act outlines numerous exceptions to suit that could prevent a person from proceeding with a claim.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Government Liability Issue?
Establishing a case for governmental liability is extremely difficult and requires the help of an attorney familiar with the requirements for filing a claim under the FTCA or the applicable state tort act. Additionally, a government lawyer will aid you in navigating the complex and difficult language of the FTCA to ensure your claim will not be barred once filed. You may need to contact a government lawyer for assistance with your case.