The Federal Tort Claims Act: The First Step to Take

Under the FTCA, a plaintiff must first submit an administrative claim to the responsible federal agency prior to the initiation of a lawsuit. The courts have held that the filing of such a claim is a jurisdictional requirement meaning that before the United States government can be sued, a written claim must first be made to the responsible federal agency which the claimant contends is liable for their damages. Many federal agencies have their own regulations governing the filing of such claims but in most cases they are identical to regulations issued by the United States Department of Justice. The usual standard Form 95 Claim Form is that which should be used. It can be located via a Google search and sets forth what information should be provided to the government when a claim is filed.
The time for filing an administrative claim is two (2) years from the date of the accident. Once the administrative claim is filed, the plaintiff must wait for the agency to reject the claim or allow six (6) months to pass before filing suit. The passage of six (6) months without agency rejection may be treated as a denial under the law. 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.
Once an agency’s six (6) month rejection period has expired, suit must be brought within a subsequent six (6) month interval or if the agency actively rejects the claim an action must be commenced within six (6) months of the date of the agency’s rejection letter. If a suit is brought more that six (6) months after an agency’s denial of the claim, it could be potentially barred by the statute of limitations.
A key point here is that the submission of administrative claims are absolutely mandatory. The fact that the United States is aware of a potential claim does not in anyway relieve the claimant of his/her burden of filing the claim with the appropriate federal agency involved. Send the Form 95 to the agency responsible for the tort and to its local office and make sure you get confirmation of receipt of the claim via certified mail to be safe. Again, this is a requirement which must be observed if one’s rights are to be protected.

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