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