Suing the Government: How Is It Done?

The federal government, like any other entity, often is responsible for causing innocent people to be harmed. For those of us who live in the Washington metropolitan area, the chances of being harmed by a government employee are increased. The situations in which we encounter the government are both frequent and varied, and potentially include visiting a government hospital, or being struck be a driver operating a government vehicle. If you are victimized by the negligent acts of a federal worker, here is some basic information you should know.

The very first task to be performed when suing the federal government is to file a document known as a Notice of Claim. Essentially, this means that you must file a claim with the agency that committed the negligence (i.e., Department of Education, Secret Service, etc.) The Notice of Claim is filed on a standard form 95, commonly known as the “SF95.” It is worth mentioning that the SF95 must contain a “sum certain” claim, meaning that the claimant must identify a specific dollar amount that the claimant is seeking. The SF95 must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations, which is two years from the date the claimant knew, or should have known, of the negligence. If the SF95 is not timely filed, the claim cannot be brought.

Once the claim has been filed, then “notice” is considered given. At that point, the agency has six months by which to take action on the claim. This means that the government can investigate the matter, and in some situations settle claims. If the government has not taken action then suit can be brought. The legal standard is whether the government has taken a “final administrative action.”

Next, if (a) either settlement has not been effectuated, or (b) no action has been taken, then suit can be filed. Suit must be brought against the United States in the United States District Court. Usually, the claimant is not entitled to a jury trial. This means that a federal judge will decide what compensation, if any, is appropriate.

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In short, suing the federal government can be a confusing matter. If you believe you have been victimized by the federal government, call Cohen & Cohen, P.C. today for a free consultation on your case.