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Kentucky Car Accident Lawsuits Under the FTCA

Kentucky’s roads and highways are not immune to the unfortunate reality of car accidents. Dealing with the aftermath of a motor vehicle collision often includes physical pain and piling medical bills. Typically, a person could file a personal injury claim.

However, when these incidents involve a government entity or employee, the legal landscape becomes much more intricate. Unlike standard passenger collisions, pursuing a lawsuit against a government member or entity requires a nuanced understanding of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

The U.S. government is typically shielded from legal actions through sovereign immunity. However, the FTCA stands as an exception that allows individuals to seek compensation through litigation when: a government entity or employee, acting within the scope of their duties, causes personal injury or wrongful death.

The FTCA process introduces unique legal challenges, from specific notice requirements to filing deadlines. Due to these added complications, it is imperative for those affected to secure the expertise of an attorney experienced in FTCA cases.

Contact Morrin Law

The personal injury attorneys at Morrin Law Firm are well versed in personal injury claims against the FTCA. We understand the agony and frustration that comes with an unexpected car accident. If your injuries were caused at the hands of a government employee who was acting negligent or reckless, you deserve compensation for the resulting damages. Our attorneys are prepared to represent and fight for you, with our main goal being your physical, mental, and financial recovery after this tough time. To receive a risk-free case evaluation, contact our office at (859) 358-0300.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)

When an individual experiences harm or damages caused by another person’s civil wrongdoing, it is considered a tort. The tort system is set up to serve the functions of deterring people from harming others and to help compensate those who have been wrongfully injured.

In a standard example of a tort, a person who caused a motor vehicle collision due to negligent or reckless actions that resulted in severe injury may be held liable to the injured victim(s) of the crash.

If a federal entity is at the center of a personal injury claim, things become slightly more complicated. That’s because federal entities are typically granted sovereign immunity—meaning the government cannot be sued without its consent.

The exception to this immunity is through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Enacted by the U.S. government in 1946, the FTCA is considered a limited waiver of sovereign immunity. Under the regulations of the FTCA, an individual can seek financial damages by suing for personal injury, property damage, or wrongful death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

One important detail to note is that the federal employee must have been within the scope of their employment. Meaning if an off-duty federal employee causes a car accident and injury in their own personal vehicle, an FTCA claim may not be a viable option.

The following lists the EPA agencies that fall under the FTCA:

  • United States Postal Service (USPS) – USPS operates one of the largest civilian vehicle fleets in the world. Postal workers use vehicles for mail and package delivery across the country.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – FBI agents and other personnel use vehicles for surveillance, transportation to crime scenes, and other law enforcement-related incidents.
  • Department of Defense (DOD) – This includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The DOD has a substantial number of vehicles for military and support purposes. This includes transportation of personnel and materials.
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – The USDA has numerous vehicles for purposes such as inspection, research, and fieldwork related to agricultural practices and rural development.
  • United States Forest Service – As part of the USDA, the Forest Service employs vehicles for managing and protecting national forests, including firefighting and conservation efforts.
  • National Park Service (NPS) – The NPS operates vehicles for patrolling and maintaining national parks, including ranger activities and park maintenance.
  • Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) – The VA has employee vehicles for the purpose of transporting veterans to and from medical facilities and other service-related activities.
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – While primarily known for airport security, TSA also has a fleet for transportation and logistical support.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – FEMA uses vehicles extensively for disaster response and recovery operations across the country.

Car Accidents Involving Members of the FTCA

The following provides example situations where FTCA employees may be involved in car accidents leading to lawsuits:

  • Negligent driving by federal employee – A federal employee who is negligent while operating a motor vehicle can lead to a motor vehicle collision. Negligent behavior can include speeding, distracted driving, or failure to obey traffic signals.
  • Inadequate training or supervision of federal employee – If a federal employee is inadequately trained or supervised and causes a car accident, the injured party may file an FTCA lawsuit.
  • Defective government vehicle maintenance – If a government entity or employee fails to properly maintain its vehicles and it results in a car accident, the victims harmed in the accident may seek compensation under the FTCA.
  • Federal employee driving under the influence – A government employee who operates a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes a car accident could lead to an FTCA lawsuit.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident caused by a government employee, contact Morrin Law to discuss your options under the FTCA.

Administrative Claims Process

According to EPA’s page, an administrative claim can be filed by any individual, business, or government entity that experienced financial damages caused by personal injury or property damage from an EPA employee within the scope of their employment.

The following provides who may file an administrative claim under FTCA based on each type of case:

  1. A claim for injury to or loss of property may be presented by the owner who is the subject of the claim, his duly authorized agent, or a legal representative;
  2. A claim for personal injury may be presented by the injured person, his duly authorized agent, or a legal representative; or
  3. A claim based on wrongful death may be presented by the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate or by any other person legally entitled to assert such a claim under applicable State law.

How to File a Claim under FTCA

Before an injured person or party can file a FTCA lawsuit, they must first complete a series of procedural requirements. This includes providing the government with the opportunity to evaluate the claim and decide if it can be settled prior to going to federal court.

The administrative claims process begins by filing a Standard Form 95. While a Standard Form 95 is not mandatory, the injured person or party is required to provide some form of written notification of the incident, along with the claim for financial damages. As the Standard 95 form is already organized and recognized by EPA, it is an easy option to use.

The following provides the evidence to be submitted in a FTCA claim based on the type of incident:

  1. Property Damage – In support of a claim for damage or loss of property, real or personal, the claimant may be required to submit the following information:
    • Proof of ownership;
    • A detailed statement of the amount claimed with respect to each item of property;
    • An itemized receipt of payment for necessary repairs or itemized written estimates of the cost of such repairs;
    • A statement listing date of purchase, purchase price, and market value of the property as of date of damage; or
    • Any other evidence or information which may have a bearing on the responsibility of the U.S. either for the injury or loss of property.
  2. Personal Injury – In support of a claim for personal injury, including pain and suffering, the claimant may be required to submit the following information:
    • A written report by a physician setting forth the nature and extent of the injury, nature and extent of treatment, any degree of temporary or permanent disability, the prognosis, period of hospitalization, and any diminished earning capacity;
    • Itemized bills for hospital bills and related medical expenses, or an itemized receipt of payment;
    • If the medical evaluation highlights a necessity for future treatment, a statement of the expected duration of and expenses for such treatment;
    • If the claim is made for loss of work, a written statement from the employer showing actual time lost from employment; or
    • Any other evidence or information which may have a bearing on the responsibility of the U.S. for either personal injury or damages claimed.
  3. Wrongful Death – In support of a claim based on death, the claimant may be required to submit the following information:
    • An authenticated death certificate or other competent evidence showing cause of death, date of death, and age of decedent;
    • Decedent’s employment or occupation at a time of death, including the monthly or yearly salary or earnings, and the duration of their last employment or occupation;
    • Full names, addresses, birth dates, kinship, and marital status of the decedent’s survivors, including identification of those survivors who were dependent for support on the decedent at the time of death;
    • Degree of support afforded by the decedent to each survivor dependent;
    • Decedent’s general physical and mental condition before death;
    • Itemized bills for medical and burial expenses incurred by reason of the incident causing death, or itemized receipts of payments for such expenses;
    • If damages for pain and suffering prior to death are claimed, a physician’s detailed statement specifying the injuries suffered; or
    • Any other evidence or information which may have a bearing on either the responsibility of the U.S. for the death or damages claimed.

Important: A claim against an EPA entity or employee under FTCA must be filed within two years of the date the claim accrued. To find more information on completing a Standard 95 Form, review the instructions here.

If you have any questions regarding the administrative claims process, contact an experienced personal injury attorney with Morrin Law Firm.

How Long Does It Take for EPA to Make a Formal Decision?

Once a claim has been filed with EPA, they have 6 months to accept or deny it. If you have not received an answer within 6 months, you can treat the claim as if it has been denied.

If the federal entity accepts responsibility for the damages, they may offer to settle the claim with a compensation offer. You can choose to accept the offer; however, if the offered compensation is not sufficient, you can either file a request for consideration or take the next step towards litigation.

If the federal entity denies responsibility for the damages, you can either file a request for consideration or move forward to sue in court.

Keep in mind that FTCA cases are complex. A Kentucky personal injury attorney can help explain the process and ensure your rights are protected.

Filing a Lawsuit Under FTCA

If you’ve reached the point of filing a lawsuit under FTCA, the civil suit will take place in the U.S. District Court where you live or where the incident took place.

According to 32 CFR §750.32, there is no right to a jury trial in suits brought under the FTCA. Since the opposing party will be assigned a federal attorney to defend their case, you should consider hiring a Kentucky attorney experienced in FTCA lawsuits.

The outcome of the lawsuit will depend on the decision of the federal judge, based on the details and circumstances of the case. A successful case occurs when the attorney can prove that the EPA employee’s actions or omissions caused the accident, your resulting injuries, and any resulting damages. If your case wins, you will be issued a judgement by the court that specifies the damages awarded.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident Involving a Federal Employee

While a car accident will leave most people distressed and confused, there are several steps you should take to ensure the right evidence is preserved. Especially if the at-fault party was a government employee, we advise you to take the following steps prior to completing the administrative claims process:

  1. Contact the Kentucky Police to report the accident and determine fault;
  2. Document the accident scene (if it is safe to do so!) by taking images or videos of the scene, any property damage, and any immediately obvious injuries;
  3. Notify your insurance company about the accident, preferably after you’ve consulted with a Kentucky personal injury attorney; and
  4. Hire the personal injury attorneys with Morrin Law Firm who are experienced in FTCA to represent your personal injury case and determine the best method forward.

Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys with Morrin Law

Every personal injury case comes with its own complexities; however, FTCA cases are particularly complicated and more nuanced than a standard personal injury case. Whether you’ve experienced an injury or wrongful death at the hands of a government employee, you should be awarded compensation to offset the physical, emotional, and financial damages caused by the motor vehicle collision.

The attorneys with Morrin Law have a broad understanding of the rules and regulations under FTCA. We can provide you with help by speaking to insurance companies on your behalf, using our resources for collision reconstruction to prove fault, and representing you if the case goes to federal court. From there, we will determine if a FTCA tort is the right option for your case. It is important that you have a full understanding of your rights and legal options during this challenging time. Contact our office today at (859) 358-0300 to receive a risk-free case assessment.