What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act?

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For many years, the doctrine of sovereign immunity protected government entities from being held liable, or financially responsible, for the negligent acts of their employees. Sovereign immunity states that the government cannot be sued without its consent. When the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was passed, however, it allowed citizens to sue the federal government for the first time – within certain parameters.

What Does the Federal Tort Claims Act Mean?

The Federal Tort Claims Act was enacted in 1946 to provide a means of compensating victims who suffered injuries, property damage or other losses due to the negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee working for the federal government. While the FTCA does not entirely do away with the rule of sovereign immunity, it creates exceptions that enable injured victims to sue the government in certain scenarios. The key points of the FTCA are:

  • In general, if a private individual or entity would be found liable in accordance with the laws where the incident took place, the FTCA allows individuals to recover financial compensation from the United States.
  • For a government employee to be held responsible for an accident or damage, he or she must be guilty of a wrongful or negligent act while performing tasks within the scope of his or her official government duties.
  • Any individual, business or government entity that has a valid claim for monetary damages for losses or injuries caused by a government employee acting within the scope of his or her employment must file a related lawsuit within two years.

The four elements that must be proven for a successful claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act are that the victim was injured (or suffered property damage) by a federal government employee, the employee was acting within the scope of his or her official duties, the employee behaved negligently or wrongfully, and that the employee’s act or omission was the proximate cause of the victim’s injury or damage. If these elements exist, a victim can sue outside of the rules of sovereign immunity.

How Does the Federal Tort Claims Act Affect Your Injury Claim?

The Federal Tort Claims Act may affect your claim if you need to sue the federal government for causing or significantly contributing to your injury or property damage in Omaha, Nebraska. If you were injured by a government agent, for example, such as in a car accident involving a federal agent, you may have grounds to hold the government liable. You may also be able to sue the government for an injury that takes place on public property, such as a slip and fall accident in a federal building.

If you need to file a lawsuit under the FTCA, you must do so within two years of your accident or the date of reasonable discovery of your injury. This is the deadline, or statute of limitations, on all federal tort claims. You must also complete specific forms to initiate your lawsuit. Then, the government agency has six months to accept or deny your claim. Once the six-month mark has passed (or after the agency rejects your claim), you have the right to file a personal injury cause of action against the government entity.

What Is the Nebraska State Tort Claims Act?

There is a separate act and set of rules if you need to file a claim against the state government rather than the federal government. These cases involve the State Tort Claims Act of Nebraska, which is similar to the FTCA; it also offers an exception to sovereign immunity if an employee of the state government was negligent or wrongful. In addition, state law gives claimants two years to file a claim. If you need to bring a claim under the Federal or State Tort Claims Act in Nebraska, contact an attorney for assistance with this complicated legal process.