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Tort Claims Acts: When the government is liable

Posted on: January 26, 2023

Chi Hung Nguyen
January 26, 2023

Tort Claims Acts: When the government is liable

texas tort claims and federal tort claims act

In general, the government is not able to be sued. This is referred to as the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, meaning that a governmental unit is immune from lawsuits.


However, while it may be more complex than a typical car accident or truck accident lawsuit, federal and state laws have made it so that injured claimants may be able to sue the government under certain circumstances.


What is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?


Generally, the Federal Tort Claims Act compensates individuals who have suffered personal injury, death or property damage caused by an employee of the federal government for accidents that happened on and after January 1, 1945.


If U.S. government employee drives a motor vehicle as part of his job, and causes either bodily injuries to the claimant or property damage, then the only potential remedies and compensation the injured claimant can get would be through the Federal Tort Claims Act. It is for this reason that all insurance policies exclude coverage for any damages that were caused by an accident as a result of a U.S. government employee acting while on the job (in the course and scope of his job duties). Usually, in these kinds of cases, insurance companies put all the responsibility and blame on the U.S. government so that they do not need to consider paying settlements or preparing defenses.


After an injured claimant files a lawsuit, the claimant is then called the plaintiff. In a lawsuit, it is the burden of the plaintiff to show that his or her claim is allowed under the FTCA, and that the at-fault U.S. government employee was in the scope of his employment when the accident happened, such as causing an accident while performing his job duties.


The FTCA also limits which kinds of claims can be paid under the Act. Usually, the FTCA lets injured claimants recover money damages from the U.S. in certain situations. For example, if the U.S. was a private individual instead of a government entity, and would have been held responsible for the wrongful act as an individual, then the government may be held responsible. This is sometimes referred to as the “like circumstances test.”


Statute of Limitations

Claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act have a two-year statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a deadline created by the law to file a lawsuit for the specific basis of a lawsuit, or cause of action. This means that the injured claimant has two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, otherwise, he or she gives up the ability to bring a lawsuit after this expiration date.


Types of Damages

There are many different types of damages that an injured claimant can recover. On January 14, 1992, the United States Supreme Court increased the potential remedies and compensation an injured claimant could receive if they sued the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. As a result, injured claimants could potentially recover future medical expenses, which are medical bills that are expected to be incurred in the future, and “loss of enjoyment of life,” which are damages that would compensate an injured claimant for the frustration and inability to live life as the claimant did before the accident.


However, injured claimants cannot recover punitive damages. Designed to discourage and punish wrongful acts, punitive damages are usually added on top of the usual damages in a case. Usually, damages take the form of money awards to an injured claimant after a car accident for medical treatment, property damage to the car, etc. Punitive damages, on the other hand, are added on top of these damages for particularly bad mis

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