Suing Uncle Sam – Filing Against the Federal Government
Filing Suit Against the Federal Government Related to Injury or Property Damage
If you are injured or suffer property damage as a result of the negligence of an agency of the federal government or one of its employees, you may be entitled to compensation.
At one time, the federal government was exempt from lawsuits altogether because the government had sovereign immunity. (Just like the King of England – the sovereign – could not be sued by his subjects.) This changed after a B-25 bomber aircraft crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City on a foggy day in 1945. The victims of the tragedy were eventually given compensation, but the next year Congress enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) which granted the right for persons to sue the federal government.
There are a few things to keep in mind about suing the federal government. The law doesn’t allow you to just immediately file suit in court. There is first an administrative process. This process requires that you file a claim with the specific agency you allege caused your injury or damaged your property. Claims are filed on a particular government form: Standard Form 95. It is recommended that you receive help from an attorney as this form must be filed correctly. The form requests information from you regarding your injury and/or property damage, requests certain insurance information, and also requires a dollar amount for claim settlement. Claims must be filed within two years of the alleged incident. But you shouldn’t wait two years before you get an attorney. An attorney can help you preserve evidence, identify witnesses, and help you through the process. If your claim is denied by the agency, you have 6 months to file suit in court. If you miss either the two-year window to file a claim with the government agency, or subsequently the 6-month window to file suit if the agency denies your claim, your claim is forever barred, which means you will recover nothing.
On the government agency’s end, once they receive a claim, they will review the form and any additional supplemental information. The agency may agree to settle the claim based on the dollar amount you provided, or they may come back with their own settlement number. If a settlement can’t be reached however, that’s when you may be compelled to file suit. Suits against the federal government for injuries and property damage are filed in the U.S. district court in the place in which the incident took place. So, if the incident took place in Maryland, the suit would proceed in the U.S. District Court, District of Maryland. The proceedings would be governed by Maryland state law.
An attorney can help you manage the process of properly filing claims, making informed and reasonable requests for settlement, and eventually filing suit in court, if necessary.
Fred Antenberg is an attorney in Columbia, Maryland, who handles personal injury matters in Howard County, Maryland, and surrounding counties. Call Fred at 410-730-4404.