The quick answer, discussed in this video: yes!
In 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act gave the right for private parties to file claims against the federal government for torts committed by federal employees while acting in the scope of their employment with the federal government. Prior to this statute, the federal government could not be sued for the acts of its employees. The Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, allows citizens to pursue tort claims against federal employees like postal service workers, the military, members of government departments like Homeland Security, and even Veterans Administration hospital doctors. But just because it is legally possible to file a claim does not mean that the process is easy, and there are many instances in which the FTCA does not apply.
The FTCA is limited by the sovereign immunity doctrine and does not give citizens sweeping powers to sue the federal government, but rather allows some tort claims under very specific circumstances. Let’s say a person is walking home one day when a United States Postal Service van runs through a stop sign and hits them. The at-fault party is the postal service employee who was at the wheel, and because driving a mail van is within the scope of his employment by the federal government, the injured person can use the FTCA to file a claim. An exception would be if the person in the vehicle is not a USPS driver, but rather an independent contractor hired by a federal agency to quickly make a delivery. Since this person is a contractor and not recognized as a federal employee, the Federal Tort Claims Act would not apply. If you or someone else is unsure whether the FTCA applies to a specific situation, consider contacting a subrogation attorney who can help determine if you are eligible to file a claim.
Important Information About Filing A Tort Claim
- There is a two-year period after the initial incident within which a person must notify the federal government about the claim. This notification is done by filling out a Standard Form 95.
- Make sure to submit Standard Form 95 to the correct government agency and with appropriate supplemental information like photos of the damage and estimates of the loss.
- If the notice requirement is met and the claim is not paid, a person has 6 months from the date the government mails notice of the full or partial rejection. In any event, the lawsuit must be filed within 6 years from the date of the loss.
- If someone does not receive a response to their claim, they have the right to treat 6 months of government silence as a rejection of their claim. After the 6 months of non-response prerequisite is fulfilled, they can then carry on and file suit.
- However, a party is not required to file suit if the government does not respond after 6 months, as a person can wait longer before filing, as they still ultimately have 6 years from the date of loss to file a lawsuit.
- All suits must be filed in the appropriate federal district court, as only the federal courts have the jurisdiction to hear any claims against the federal government. It cannot be filed in state court.