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Federal Tort Claims

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) describes the procedure for handling claims against the United States, a government employee, or other governmental entity for a negligent act or omission. The FTCA permits private parties, contrary to the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, to sue the United States in Federal Court for most torts committed by persons acting on behalf of the United States or an agency thereof.

Tort claims must be received by the proper agency within two (2) years of the date the claim accrued. Claims are generally submitted under a standard governmental form (SC95); however, use of the form is not mandatory. The contents of the claim must include the following:

1. Factual details of the occurrence, including the negligent acts or omissions and how it caused injury or damage;

2. The damages claimed, including the total amount;

3. Signature of the claimant.

A claim properly presented must be “finally denied” before proceeding with litigation in the Federal Court. The failure of the United States or its appropriate agency to deny or make a final determination within the initial six (6) months following the presentation of the claim, can at the option of the claimant, be deemed a formal denial, allowing filing of a Complaint in the Federal Court. Additional time can also be granted by the agency, allowing it to further investigate and thereafter determine the viability of the claim.

Navigating the FTCA can be difficult as well as consequential. Generally, the amount of damages will be limited to the amount claimed in the initial claim documents. In addition, determinations as to liability may be made only on the facts and theories initially presented within the claim. A careful evaluation of the facts, law and damages is a necessity.

While most FTCA claims are resolved at the claims presentation level or thereafter, it is prudent to seek the advice and assistance of attorneys familiar with the claims presentation requirements. Whether a federal tort claims as described herein or a claim against any other public entity, the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin have extensive familiarity with the claim presentation processes and are available for assistance and representation in the presentation of any and all government tort claims.

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