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Federal Tort Claims Act

Government Tort Lawyers Serving Clients throughout Texas and Nationwide

The U.S. and state and local governments are not above responsibility for the injuries and deaths they cause, and government workers can be negligent and cause harm. Likewise, government property can be negligently maintained so that it becomes a dangerous cause of injury or death. For situations involving serious injury or death based on a government worker’s negligence, you may have a cause of action for a civil lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the Texas Tort Claims Act or other laws that apply to governments and their employees and agencies. At Bush Lewis, our government tort lawyers have decades of experience helping people obtained compensation for injury, which includes successfully handling government tort cases. We handle Federal Tort Claims Act cases throughout the United States and Texas Tort Claims Act cases all over Texas.

What is a Tort?

A tort is an action that damages property or injures a person in some way. Torts can be intentional torts such as assault, battery and defamation of character or they can arise out of negligence, such as failing to repair a hazardous property condition that harms someone. Typically, you cannot sue governments for intentional torts unless they violate civil rights in one of the rare ways that would allow the filing of civil rights lawsuit. Because torts are civil wrongs, they can be the basis of a lawsuit seeking compensation for harm to the injured party.

What is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?

Historically, you could not sue the federal government for its negligence or liability that caused damage or injury. The first time a civil tort suit against the government was allowed was after Congress passed the Federal Claims act in 1946. This concept of not being able to sue the government comes from English law where the king was held sovereign and therefore had immunity to lawsuits. In many respects the U.S. government still retains this sovereign immunity. For example, the federal government is not liable when its agents commit the following torts:
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • False imprisonment
  • False arrest
  • Malicious prosecution
  • Abuse of process
  • Libel
  • Slander
  • Misrepresentation
  • Deceit
  • Interference with contract rights
However, an exception to sovereign immunity is that law enforcement officers can be sued for the following:
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • False imprisonment
  • False arrest
  • Abuse of process
  • Malicious prosecution
The government’s sovereign immunity changed somewhat when Congress passed the Federal Claims Act in 1946. Based on 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b) United States as Defendant the guideline used in determining government liability is whether a private individual would be liable for the injury, loss of property, or personal injury or death. If so, the federal government may often be held liable. Liability is also determined by whether the act or omission is a civil wrong based on the law of the place where the act or omission occurred. To be liable, the government employee must be acting within the scope of his/her office or employment.

Types of actions that are not actionable torts against the government include:
  • Claims based on incidents occurring within a foreign country
  • Claims arising out of victims killed or injured during military combat activities of war

Federal Tort Claims Act Cases

An early government tort case prosecuted subsequent to the Federal Tort Claims Act involved a lieutenant colonel piloting a B-25 bomber, who crashed into the Empire State Building during dense fog. The U.S. government offered compensation to families who lost loved ones. Some families settled and others sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Some examples of Federal Tort Claim Act cases that Bush Lewis has successfully settled include:
  • Port Arthur, Texas, partial paralysis from swine flu vaccine resulted in confidential settlement against federal government (which assumed responsibility for vaccine manufacturer Wyeth).
  • Vidor, Texas, a mentally handicapped adult pedestrian who suffered brain and emotional injuries from a blow to head by an unrestrained portion of a federal government drilling rig being transported on interstate highway resulted in a confidential settlement from federal government.
  • Various motor vehicle accidents involving federal employee driven vehicles.
  • Slip and fall or trip cases on federal property.

Military Malpractice Cases

While military on active duty may not bring a medical malpractice case against the government, spouses or children of active military personnel can sue the government for medical malpractice. Individuals not on active duty who suffer medical malpractice injury through a military or veteran’s medical facility can bring a tort claim against the government.

Texas Tort Claims Act Cases

Texas law allows the state, its agencies, counties, departments, districts and employees to be sued in limited situations for limited amounts of money. Likewise, cities or municipalities may be sued in some situations for limited amounts of money. Such claims must be brought under the Texas Tort Claims Act and are very complicated. Ken Lewis and Don Bush have handled such claims for over 35 years and have been involved in some of the key appellate decisions under the Texas Tort Claims Act.

Get Experienced Legal Help with a Federal Tort Claims Act Case

Suing the federal or state government is a more complicated process than a non-government tort claim. Prior to being able to file a lawsuit, you must file an administrative claim with the responsible government agency. Any recovery in a later lawsuit is severely limited by whatever is in the administrative notice or claim form and cannot be changed if a lawsuit must be filed later to enforce your rights. Usually the government agency is not very helpful with your FTCA or TTCA lawyer and almost never settles the claim before a lawsuit is filed. If the agency denies your FTCA claim, your only option is to file a lawsuit in federal district court. Federal tort claims are either filed in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred or in the jurisdiction where the injury victim lives. The same essential rules apply to TTCA claims except that the lawsuit must be filed in state court where the accident happened or where the government agency or entity is located.

Laws surrounding federal and state government torts are complex, involving a number of possible defenses and exceptions under the law. When handling your own case, it is unlikely you can achieve a favorable outcome, due to lack of legal knowledge and experience. If you have a government tort, you should rely on a skilled Federal Tort Claims and Texas Tort Claims Act attorney. The lawyers at Bush Lewis have the experience and expertise necessary to handle Federal Tort Claims Act and Texas Tort Claims Act cases successfully. Contact a government tort lawyer at Bush Lewis today for a free initial consultation.

Know This Before An Accident

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