Federal Tort Claims

The Federal Tort Claims Act is a federal statute that allows for lawsuits against the federal government in certain instances. Under the FTCA, state law is applied as to the basic elements of the tort claim. The state law that is applied is the law where the incident occurred.

A prelude to the filing of a federal tort claims case is the filing of an administrative claim. That administrative claim form is important because the amount set forth in that claim form binds the plaintiff, i.e. the plaintiff cannot recover more than what is set forth in the administrative claim.

If there is a parent/child situation where the injury is to a minor and medical expenses are paid by the parent, then there is a need to file two separate claim forms, one for the parent and one for the child.

These cases are tried without a jury in front of a federal judge. The extent of recovery is a matter of discretion for the federal judge deciding the case. At least one Circuit, however, has stated that awards under the Federal Tort Claims Act should be governed by the highest award for similar cases in that same state to the extent that the award involves non-economic losses. There is no particular criteria as far as the amount of economic losses that may be awarded. Non-economic losses are such non-tangible losses as pain and suffering. In evaluating federal tort claims cases it is therefore important to look at what is the maximum award for non-economic damages reported by any state courts in that jurisdiction involving cases that are factually similar.

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