FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT LAWYERS IN VIRGINIA
There are only a few laws that are the same between Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC when it comes to car accidents. Car accidents and truck accidents involving US Government vehicles, however, are one of the few cases that are handled the same, no matter which state the crash happens in. Accidents involving US Government and US Military vehicles are going to be governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act. This law governs all motor vehicle accidents involving government vehicles, and indeed, any injury claims against any actor(s) of the federal government.
As you can imagine, filing a claim against the government is incredibly complicated, and the various agencies don't make it any easier. Because your claim is framed as "You vs. the US Government," many people feel intimidated, frustrated, and scared to proceed. But you do not have to be - just call the experienced Federal Tort Claims Act lawyers at Blaszkow Legal to help make your case, prove your case, and win your case!
Speak to a Federal Tort Claims Act Lawyer Right Away!
If you have been hurt in a car accident that was caused by an agent or employee of the federal government, you need to speak to a car accident attorney right away. Just like with any accident, this claim needs to be investigated, camera footage needs to be maintained, and witnesses need to be interviewed. But there are other procedural requirements that can make things incredibly difficult if you don't follow the law, to the letter.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
The Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, was first passed by Congress in 1946, and is the law that allows individuals to recover compensation from the government, when a government employee injures someone in the course of their duties. There's a little bit to unpack there, so let us explain in more detail.
What is a tort? A tort is a civil wrong. Often times, a tort results in a claim that seeks money damages. All car accidents are considered tort claims. In order to file a tort claim, there are two important conditions that have to be met: 1) that you have been injured, and 2) the injuries you suffered are the proximate result of another person's negligence. In FTCA cases, you also have to meet another condition: 3) that the driver was in the course of his duties as a US Government employee. Government contractors are generally not subject to the FTCA.
In the realm of a car accident, the tort is the accident. So after this, you have to establish how the other driver was negligent. The same rules of negligence apply for government vehicles, as they do for all other drivers on the roadway.
It is important to remember, that the contributory negligence rules still apply, too. You cannot have been in any way responsible for the happening of the accident.
How Do You File a Federal Tort Claim?
The government is not a monolithic organization, but is broken down into independent and semi-independent entities and agencies. Your claim has to be filed against the entity where the employee worked, or reported to.
1. Locate the appropriate federal agency.
This can involve some investigation, because the name of the agency that was using the government vehicle is not always on the side of the car! Making matters worse is that most local police departments will often simply list "US Government" on the police report, as the tags all come back to the "General Services Administration."
Here are some examples the most common government vehicles involved in accidents in the DC metro area:
US Postal Service
Department of the Interior/Park Service
General Services Administration
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Defense (including military vehicles)
Veterans Affairs Administration
2. Assemble/develop the claim.
Unlike when dealing with a car insurance company, the process of adjudicating a claim against the US Government is not a simple or quick process. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to get the claim assigned to an attorney or staff member in the respective government agency who handles claims. It is frustrating for clients, because these accidents take so long to resolve.
However, you - the client - need to focus on your medical treatment and get back to where you were before the accident. Let us make the phone calls and get the wheels of government to move.
During this phase of the case, our office is investigating and developing all of the evidence that we can to prove the negligence on the part of the government employee.
Generally, this phase of the case lasts as long as it needs to (between investigation and a client's medical treatment). We cannot properly value a client's case until we know what all of the elements of our clients damages are.
3. Filing the claim itself.
A Federal Tort Claims Act case is filed utilizing the Standard Form 95, or SF95. This form is completed comprehensively by our office, and submitted with our demand package. This is similar to a settlement demand package in a regular car accident case. This form answers all of the questions that the government will have, and also includes our clients medical records. We use the SF-95 as the cover to our settlement package, rather than a stand-alone document. This is important because if the government does not have all of the information it needs, you run the risk of having your claim under-valued, or denied.
The SF95 requires you to set out a specific amount of money, sometimes called a "sum certain." This is not a simple assessment, but a complicated valuation of what a client can obtain in court. It is more nuanced, however, as whatever number is placed on the SF95 is the maximum that you can sue for if the case goes to trial. You cannot ask for $50,000 on the SF95, and then tell a trial court that you want $200,000.
4. Negotiating the claim.
Negotiating a claim with a federal agency is, procedurally, very similar to engaging in negotiations with an at-fault car insurance company, but with several additional layers of bureaucracy added. In Federal cases, there are invariably more people involved then you normally expect, and that is why there is often a wide gap between demand, offer, and counter offer. In standard car insurance cases, a plaintiff's car accident lawyer and an insurance company may be able to have meaningful discussions twice a week, whereas with the federal government, there may be weeks between a demand, and a response.
However, this is not to suggest that the federal government will respond immediately once they have the SF95. Unfortunately, here again there is a huge difference between insurance companies and the government.
Insurance companies will usually respond to demand packages within 30 days. The government, by statute, has six months to respond once they receive the package!
Timeline of a Federal Tort Claim, and the Statute of Limitations
Under federal law, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a federal tort claim. That means 2 years between the date of the accident, to the time that you file the SF95.
NOTE - these claims have nothing to do with the state-level statute of limitations.
This can be counter-intuitive as the statute of limitations for car accidents
in DC and Maryland is 3 years. Remember, FTCA claims follow federal law,
not state law!
Once the SF95/demand package is filed with the government, they have 6 months to respond.
If the government fails to respond, or otherwise denies the claim, then you have to file a lawsuit. This lawsuit needs to be filed in the United States District Court.
It is important to remember that you cannot sue the government immediately. You have to go through this claims process before you can file the lawsuit (known as "exhausting administrative remedies"). If you do not complete all of the procedural steps, the federal government will ultimately be able to have your claim dismissed on procedural grounds.
Immunity and the Federal Tort Claims Act
The individual government employee who caused your injuries, such as the driver of the government vehicle, is immune from suit. In a normal car accident case, you always sue the driver. However, in an FTCA case, your case is being brought against the United States Government, not the individual actor who caused your injuries.
This does not mean you do not have a claim, it merely restricts who you can name as parties to the lawsuit.
Damages That Can Be Claimed in a Federal Tort Claims Case
If you have been injured by a federal government vehicle, then you have a right to file a claim for compensation. The damages that you can claim are the same as those that you can claim in a regular, private-party car accident. "Damages" is a legal term that encompasses all of the ways that the accident has impacted your life, and impaired your ability to live normally. Damages fall into many different categories, but like any lawsuit, they have to be proven.
Future medical expenses
Future lost wages
Loss of earning capacity
Pain and suffering
In certain circumstances, a claim for "punitive damages" can be assessed in normal car accidents, such as when a drunk driver cause the accident. However, punitive damages are not permitted in claims against the US Government. So even if the federal government employee was drunk while working, and causes an accident, you cannot succeed on a claim for punitive damages.
Contacting an Experienced Federal Tort Claims Act Lawyer
After an accident, it is extremely important to talk to the experienced car accident lawyers at Blaszkow Legal. The Federal Tort Claims Act is extremely complicated, and the government does not make itself easy to deal with. Because of the deadlines, because of the need to gather evidence quickly and thoroughly, you are best served by calling an attorney right away. We need to build a strong case, and that is exactly what we do!
A car accident is an extremely stressful time as medical bills pile up, and you realize that you are missing time from work, and thus the income that that time would generate. Don't go through this process alone, and instead allow the experienced Federal Tort Claims Act lawyers at Blaszkow Legal to fight for you in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. If you have been hurt by a federal government employee, then call Blaszkow Legal for a free consultation so we can get you the compensation that you deserve!
Alexandria/Northern Virginia Office:
5270 Shawnee Road #102, Alexandria, Va. 22312
7824 Shrader Road, Richmond, Va. 23294
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Call 703-879-5910 now!