City Councils and County Commissioners

Local officials, elected or otherwise, have total immunity from being sued for their legislative actions. Thus, an ordinance properly passed that purposely affects only one individual, such as making a junkyard illegal when there is only one junkyard in town, is not actionable. The focus of an inquiry is limited to whether the officials acted in their legislative capacities, not whether the junkman was affected by the passage of the new law, even if the officials really wanted to shut his business down.

Who can sue the government for injuries suffered?

Anyone. The claimant does not have to be a U.S. citizen or a resident of any particular state.

Sidebar: Servicemen and women, reservists in training and federal employees cannot make a claim for injuries sustained while on active duty or on the job. There are special compensation statutes for these individuals. The statutes are their exclusive remedy for any injuries.

Do prisoners have any ability to recover for injuries suffered while incarcerated?

Yes. An inmate may claim prison employees injured him or her and bring a lawsuit against the prison or correctional system. Claims can be based on intentional acts by employees that resulted in injury to the prisoner or negligent acts, such as failing to provide the prisoner with medical treatment.

What do I need to do to file a lawsuit for injuries I sustained as a result of a government employee's actions?

You must file a complaint with the agency whose employee allegedly injured you. The agency will have administrative forms designed for these types of complaints. The forms are typically known as "administrative claim forms." You must set out the specific amount of money you are seeking to recover. You are not allowed to recover punitive damages under the FTCA.

Is there a deadline for filing a claim?

Yes. A claim for an injury caused by a government employee must be filed no later than 2 years after the date that the incident occurred.

TIP: Under the "discovery rule," you may get an extension if you did not know you were injured at the time of the incident. For example, the effects of tainted blood given during a blood transfusion in a veteran's hospital may not become apparent until months after the transfusion. In that case, you have 2 years from the date you discovered the negligence instead of from the date of the transfusion.

What should I say in my claim?

You must provide the government agency with a good deal of information if you want it favorably considered. If a personal injury is involved, include:

  • statements from healthcare providers (doctors, dentists, therapists) regarding your injury, diagnosis and prognosis;
  • copies of bills and other receipts showing medical expenses;
  • copies of tax returns and pay stubs showing wages if you are claiming lost income;
  • statements from your employer verifying your absences; and
  • statements setting out the circumstances surrounding the incident and why you believe the agency employee caused your injuries.

If a death has occurred, in addition to the items above, include details concerning the deceased's:

  • occupation;
  • income;
  • family responsibilities;
  • physical condition prior to the accident;
  • pain and suffering sustained as a result of the incident; and
  • all bills related to burial and funeral expenses.

TIP: If you recover, you must cash your check within 1 year of its issue date or it will be void. You also have 1 year from issue date to claim a lost check and request a replacement.

I filed a claim and have not heard back from the agency. What do I do now?

Under the FTCA, your complaint must be acted upon within 6 months after it has been filed. If 6 months have passed, or the agency has denied your claim prior to the 6-month deadline, you may go ahead and file a lawsuit in federal court. Your lawsuit papers should state the date that you filed a complaint along with the fact that 6 months have passed and no response has been given by the agency.

Are there any exceptions to my right to sue the federal government for injuries I have sustained?

Yes. The exceptions include claims arising from:

  • loss or negligent transmission of mail;
  • tax assessments and custom duties imposed by a customs officer;
  • damages because of quarantines imposed by the government;
  • combatant activities of military forces during a time of war;
  • incidents occurring in foreign countries; and
  • the failure or performance of a discretionary function by a government employee.

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