How Difficult Is It To Sue The Federal Government For A Slip And Fall?
If you’ve experienced a slip and fall accident in a government office, then you may be eligible to file a negligence claim against the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Unfortunately, filing a negligence claim for a slip and fall accident against the federal government is much more challenging than suing a regular citizen. Your lawsuit may be subject to long drawn processes and confusing limitations.
What Is The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a federal statute developed in 1946, enabling private citizens to sue the U.S. government in a federal court for harmful or negligent acts committed by government employees at the workplace. Any claim filed under FTCA would have the United States serving as the defendant and not the individual employee.
If you think that you have a legitimate claim for negligence against the federal government, you must first establish whether you can sue under FTCA.
General Standards For Suing Federal Government Under FTCA
The FTCA has been set up for the purpose of providing monetary compensation for property loss, death or injury caused by a wrongful or negligent act of a U.S. government employee. Although many limitations and exceptions are present under FTCA, these general standards will help give an understanding of some limitations involved with FTCA claims. Here are some of the standards:
- The negligent act must have been undertaken under the purview of the responsible party.
- You cannot sue an independent contractor appointed by the government under FTCA — you can only sue for an act committed by a federal employee.
- Only negligent claims are typically allowed, in contrast to intentional misconduct. However, some intentional misconduct claims can be laid against certain federal employees, based on the individual situation.
- The state law should permit the claim where the negligent act occurred.
Even with these limitations, the federal government pays millions of dollars to compensate for claims filed under FTCA.
FTCA-Enabled Slip And Fall Premise Liability Claims
Since FTCA enables citizens to sue the government for injuries, it is also responsible for premise liability claims. This means that any slip and fall injury occurring on federal government property can be claimed if negligence is proved. The requirements to prove negligence remain the same, but an injured person will likely recover less from the government than from a private party.
An example of someone suing the federal government is that of William Bradshaw who filed a grievance against the federal government in the Pennsylvania District Court. Bradshaw’s lawsuit was for a trip and fall accident on a raised rubber mat, which left him with serious injuries. According to him, the government failed to meet building codes laid out by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Various Government Accident Areas
Slip and fall accidents on federal properties include:
- Public Schools
- Federal Government Buildings
- Community Recreation Centers
- Military Bases
- Road Construction Projects
- State Colleges
- Public Walkways
- Public Parks
If you are injured at any of these places because of a slip or fall, you may be eligible to file a compensation claim against the federal government.
Rules For Filing Slip And Fall Accident Claims Against The Government
The federal government has strict rules if you wish to file a slip and fall accident claim. You must begin with sending a formal injury administrative claim to the proper government entity. A notice to the federal government should ideally include this information:
- Your name, address and injury date.
- A detailed summary of the injury occurrence.
- An official statement declaring negligence by the government entity.
- A Precise description of injuries, medical expenses and financial losses.
You must be careful to send the notice to the right government office. Your notice may be ineligible if you send it to the wrong government entity. You also need to ensure that your claim is made against the right office in the first place.
The statute of limitations for filing a slip and fall claim is two years against the federal government. Failure to file the lawsuit within this stipulated deadline may lead to a dismissal of your case. Of course, exceptions are always made, but they are based on individual cases.
After you file the administrative claim, the government entity has six months to reply under the rules of FTCA. If the federal government agrees that your claim is eligible, you will be paid out some or all of your claimed damages. If the government entity doesn’t provide a decision within the stipulated six-month period, you can proceed with your lawsuit.
Keep in mind that your lawsuit against the federal government must be filed in a United States District Court – where the incident occurred or where you live. But you cannot file a lawsuit against the federal government in a state court. You must also file for the same amount of money raised in your administrative claim unless you are able to provide new evidence about the slip and fall accident.
Getting Proof Of Liability
Like any normal slip and fall liability lawsuit, you need to ensure that you have adequate proof of the accident scene – from pictures of injuries to torn clothes. A picture of the accident scene creates maximum impact, so if you want to prove any federal government liability, then capturing an image instantly will help boost your case. For instance, a broken staircase can be fixed soon after your accident, so you may find it difficult to prove that it was broken at the time of your accident. Here are some actions to take when you are looking to prove a slip and fall accident on government properties:
- Report the accident as soon as possible to the person in charge of the government property.
- Ensure that you fill out any written reports as soon as possible.
- Get the names of all eyewitnesses, if there were any at the venue.
Keep in mind that if you don’t report an accident within the stipulated time frame, you are unlikely to succeed in any lawsuit.
Limitations For Filing A Claim
If you experience a slip and fall accident on government property, then the federal government may be responsible if it was negligent in handling upkeep and maintenance of the property. But you may face some vital limitations when it comes to suing the federal government.
- The federal government has strict, time-oriented deadlines for making claims with respect to slip and fall accidents against them.
- The federal government limits the amount you can recover if you win the case.
- You must have sufficient proof that the property was in unsafe condition and that the government knew about the problem beforehand.
Simply falling on government property does not constitute negligence and legal liability. Keep in mind that you should be able to prove negligence to file a slip and fall claim against the federal government. This can be difficult to prove in many cases.
Suing the federal government is a challenging prospect and requires stringent attention to details with a focus on precise time lines, which is unlike a regular slip and fall lawsuit against a private individual.
You must file a notice of your intention to pursue a liability claim within the stipulated timeframe, failing which you may lose the opportunity to sue the government. Some agencies may even claim immunity to your suit, which may be]problematic to overcome when you don’t know the complex legal processes involved. Different government units may have different notice rules and immunity clauses, so you must pay close attention to these details when filing a slip and fall accidental claim against the federal government.