What Is the Federal Tort Claims Act and How Does it Affect California Injury Victims?

When you are injured by the actions of someone who works for the government, you may have a claim for compensation following your injury. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows for private citizens to bring lawsuits against the United States for damage or loss of property, injury, or death if the harm was inflicted by a government employee’s negligence. A California personal injury attorney can assist with bringing these complex claims.

There is, however, an exception to the FTCA—the discretionary function exception (DFE). A private citizen is unable to sue the government in a tort claim if the government employee was performing a discretionary function or duty when they injured the plaintiff. In other words, if the government employee had leeway to make decisions or to act independently while performing the action that injured the plaintiff, you may be unable to sue the government under the FTCA for damages.

In a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case, the court had to consider an issue involving the FTCA. The plaintiff was asleep in a park recreation area in his tent when a tree crashed into the tent and smashed his foot. The plaintiff sued under the FTCA and argued that the government negligently failed to cut down the tree. The district court dismissed under the DFE of the FTCA, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the district court’s decision and sided with the defendant. Because employees of the U.S. Forest Service were given the discretion to identify and remove hazardous trees and the employee decided that the tree that injured the plaintiff was not dangerous enough to pose as an immediate threat, the DFE applied to the case. Because DFE applies, the court explained that the plaintiff was unable to sue the government for negligence under the FTCA. Further, because the employee had to make policy considerations when deciding on whether to chop down the tree that injured the plaintiff, it showed a further exercise of discretion.

If you were injured because of the negligence of the government, bringing a claim under the FTCA may seem to be a viable course of action to collect damages. If the action performed by the government employee involved individual discretion, however, the federal government enjoys sovereign immunity under the FTCA—which means the government has immunity from certain of these lawsuits.

When analyzing whether an employee has the discretion to perform the action that injured the plaintiff, the court must analyze the policies of the job or government property where the accident took place, and whether those policies were subject to further policy considerations. If the policies in question had no specific mandatory requirements and would require policy considerations, then the DFE applies and the government is shielded from tort liability.

Do You Need a California Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been recently injured by the negligence of a government employee in California, contact the Sharifi Firm. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm have longstanding experience representing all kinds of personal injury clients, including California slip and fall cases and car accidents. We will work tirelessly to help you pursue the compensation you and your loved ones deserve. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 866-422-7222.

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