When and How You Can Sue the Government
If you feel that a U.S. government employee or agency violated your rights, you can sue them. To do so, you will file a lawsuit pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. But what is the Federal Tort Claims Act, and how can you use it to help you?
What is the FTCA?
The Federal Tort Claims Act is a law that allows private parties to sue the federal government in federal court. Under this law, you can sue the government for “torts.” A tort is civil wrong, as opposed to a crime. The Act allows you to sue the government and government officials when necessary. These entities are usually immune from civil lawsuits, which is why this is a unique situation. If you win, you could receive damages.
Who can file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act?
You can file a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act if the government injured you or damaged your property. If a prisoner dies, a representative can file a claim on their behalf. But in most cases, you need to file the Federal Tort Claims Act claim yourself unless you use a lawyer.
How can you file a Federal Tort Claims Act suit?
There are a few steps to filing a Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit, as follows:
Complete the SF-95 Form
Form SF-95 is the standard form for filing a claim. You can download it from the internet or request it from staff at your institution. If you cannot access the form, you can write a letter instead. Be sure to include the following information:
- The date of the incident
- The place where the incident occurred
- An explanation of what happened
- Any witnesses
- A description of injury or property damage
- How much money you are seeking in damages
- The date of your claim
- Your signature
File Your Claim
You can mail or hand-deliver your claim to the regional office that oversees the institution where the injury happened. The staff at your institution will not handle any claims you make.
Wait for Processing
If you properly submitted your claim, you will get a notice that your claim is in processing. If you made any mistakes or left out any information, your form or letter will be mailed back to you. You’ll also be notified if your claim is transferred.
The Investigation Happens
The regional office will then launch an investigation into your claim. During this time, someone may ask you for more information. After the investigation, investigators will submit a full report to the Regional Counsel who has been assigned to your claim.
Get the Decision
Usually, you will receive a decision within six months. The Regional Counsel decides your case. You will get the decision and an explanation.
Accept or Reject the Decision
If the Regional Counsel decides in your favor, you will usually be offered a sum of money. This is a settlement. If you accept this money, you lose the right to sue the government for this incident. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can request that the Bureau of Prisons reconsider your claim. And if you are unhappy with the reconsideration, you can file suit in U.S. District Court.
You retain most of your rights in prison. If the government infringes on those rights, you can file a claim for money damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act.