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Injured by a government entity, do you have recourse?

Filing a personal lawsuit in the Texas civil court system can be an option for someone who has suffered harm as a result of the negligence of a private individual or entity. But what happens when a government agency or one of its employees injures you?

For example, many accidents occur when traffic lights or signs malfunction, are obstructed, or are not present at all. Another example is where a local government entity is performing roadwork involving an excavation or obstruction of the roadway, and someone is injured due to the change in the road's surface or traffic flow.

Other clear examples are:

1.If you slip and fall in a post office

2.If your car is hit by a U.S. Postal Service van driven by a postal employee delivering mail

3.If you are injured in a traffic accident involving a federal employee (such as. an FBI agent)

4.If you are injured as a result of negligent medical treatment received at a VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital

These are only a few examples of potential negligence claims against the federal government. If you have a claim against the government, often your only option is to sue the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) or the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).

The basics

As federal property, any legal claim involving a federal building accident would need to be asserted against the federal government, which is immune from lawsuits unless specifically authorized by law. Fortunately for victims, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) do exactly that, but the procedure for filing such a claim is significantly different than in other types of claims not involving the federal government. 

When a claim is asserted against the Federal or State government, the claim is based on the alleged liability of the United States in accordance with the law of the place where the negligent act or omission occurred. In other words, your claim must be rooted in a state law that would have allowed you to recover damages if you had been injured by a private individual instead.

The Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA")   and the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA)

The FTCA allows monetary compensation to be awarded when injuries are caused by wrongful (or negligent) actions of government employees. The law of the state where the act or omission occurred must permit the claim.

Claims against a local or municipal government in Texas should be filed with the local or municipal government directly, instead of with the state, under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA)

If you believe you may have a claim for negligence (careless conduct, or other wrongful or "tortious" conduct) against a federal agency or employee, you must first determine whether you can sue the federal government under the FTCA or the TTCA.

Guidelines under the FTCA

The FTCA established regulations and procedures for making personal injury claims in federal courts. Federal tort claims differ from standard rules for filing most other kinds of tort claims.

There are some guidelines that need to be followed, for example, you can only file a lawsuit if the claim is the result of negligence and not intentional misconduct, though in a few cases you can also file for intentional misconduct if the party to blame was a certain type of federal law enforcement officer. 

For example, you cannot sue the government for an act perpetrated by someone working as an independent contractor for the government unless their contract gives them employee status.  So, by way of example, if a construction company is doing work for the government and you somehow are injured by one of the employees, you will have to sue the construction company instead.

One important thing to consider is the fact that you cannot seek punitive damages when suing the federal government; you can only ask for damages equal to the actual costs of the injuries and losses sustained through the negligent action of the federal employee.

Time Limits for Filing Claims Against the Federal Government

The Federal Tort Claims Act has a two-year statute of limitations. This limitations period is a matter of federal not state law. There are two "statutes of limitations:"

  • The claim must be filed within two years after the cause of action;
  • The suit must be filed within six months after the date of mailing by the government of its notice of final denial of the claim by the agency to which it was presented. 

In the event that a lawsuit is initiated before the filing of an administrative claim or before the rejection period has expired, the lawsuit can be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

If the federal agency rejects your claim or refuses to pay all the money damages you demanded, you then have only six months from the date on which the decision is mailed to you to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file suit during the prescribed period your claim will be forever denied.

Time Limits for Filing Claims Against the Government In Texas

Section 101.101 of the Texas Tort Claims Act states that notice of a claim must be filed with the appropriate government unit within six months of the date of the accident. The notice must include a description of the injury or damage, the time and place the incident occurred, and a description of what happened.

Think you may have a case?

For the best chance of success, FTCA or TTCA lawsuits should be pursued as soon as possible after an injury. Suing the federal or state government is a serious matter.

If you have been injured by the fault of a federal or state employee, contact us immediately. Our experienced attorneys at P&M Law have served the litigation needs of Houston, Texas area residents for years and can help you navigate the arduous and sometimes complicated process of dealing with filing a claim against the federal or state government.

At P&M Law, our bilingual staff is ready to fight on behalf of your case against the federal or state government and help you get the justice you deserve. Call us at 832-844-6428 OR text our attorneys directly at 832-438-3012. 

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