Bringing a claim against the federal government complicates what may seem like a simple Washington, D.C. (D.C.) personal injury case. If the federal government is a defendant in a D.C. personal injury case, it will almost always argue that it is protected from suit for claims brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
The Federal Tort Claims Act allows individuals to file claims against the federal government and its agencies for certain wrongful conduct committed by federal officials. In an FTCA claim, a plaintiff must show that their injury was caused by a federal employee, that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment, that the employee acted wrongfully, and that the act caused the plaintiff’s damages.
Certain claims can be barred, depending on the nature of the act. If a claim is based on the act or failure to act in a discretionary function or duty, the claim is barred. Determining whether an act was a discretionary function or duty requires a determination first of whether the actions involved an element of judgment or choice. If so, the second determination is whether the judgment is one that the discretionary function was intended to protect, as a decision based on public policy considerations. It is only if both determinations are answered affirmatively that an act would fall under the discretionary function, and the government would be protected from suit. If the government claims that it is immune from suit under the FTCA, the government has to prove that an exception applies
In a recent FTCA case, a federal appeals court found that the government might be held liable in cases where it undertakes a duty and then fails to meet its own standards in carrying out the duty. In that case, two boys were killed after a tree limb fell onto their tent in Yosemite National Park while the boys were sleeping in their tent at a park campsite. The boys’ families filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, claiming that the park was responsible for their deaths.
A federal appeals court found that in this case, the park officials undertook a duty to inspect the trees in the campground. Because they undertook this duty, they were required to do so according to the park’s established policies, including evaluating the risk imposed by tress according to a seven-point system, and acting to do something about the tree. Therefore, the court found the case could continue against the government.
Contact a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawyer for Immediate Assistance
If you or a loved one has been injured, and believes the federal government may be at fault, retaining an experienced Washington, D.C. premises liability attorney is essential. The injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen have more than 20 years of experience representing the rights of victims and their families in Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas. A long-term injury or the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. We are here to help. To set up a free consultation regarding a personal injury or wrongful death claim, contact us online or call us at 800-654-1949.