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CAN YOU SUE THE UNITED STATES?

In practicing personal injury, medical negligence and assorted tort litigation, we are frequently asked if a lawsuit can be brought against the United States of America, an agency of the federal government, or an employee of same. The simple answer to such an inquiry is . . . if they permit you to do so! The process to initiate such a lawsuit is tricky.

Claims against the federal government are governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act, which sets forth what claims are permitted. Assuming the Act allows a claim to proceed, the initial step (after gathering all evidence in support of any action) is to comply with the claims presentation requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Generally, a claim must be presented to the appropriate federal agency within two years of the date that the incident occurred. Typical claims presentation statutes against state or local public entitles are six months. Claim forms may be available which outline the specific information required to be presented in a Federal Tort Claim.

The United States (or an agency thereof) generally has six months thereafter to act upon such a claim, although they can have more time if they want it! Rarely is a claim accepted, so typically a lawsuit must be filed in the appropriate U.S. District Court within six months of the decision on (rejection of) the claim. From that point forward, the litigation, including discovery and trial, are governed by the court and the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Federal Tort Claims, other public entity claims, and actions for personal injury(ies) in general are handled on a daily basis by the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin. If you have questions regarding your specific circumstances, please call us to speak to an attorney.

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