There is a common misunderstanding that if a Veterans Administration doctor or other medical worker injures you, you cannot sue for medical malpractice. You cannot fight city hall, people say. But this is not true, thanks in part to a law known as the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA).
The FTCA gives victims (or the families of victims) of medical malpractice committed by a federal employee the right to sue for damages.
Inflexible time limits for filing under FTCA
FTCA lawsuits are tough to win. Technicalities and maneuvers having to do with things like time limits for filing or who is eligible create roadblocks many do not understand until it is too late.
The help of a well-qualified attorney as early in the process as possible can make all the difference, including deciding if filing under FTCA is wiser than other moves you may have available. In some cases, you could and should take more than one approach at the same time.
Even before taking the first step, consider the statute of limitations. You must begin your suit no more than two years after the date of the injury caused by the government employee (such as a botched surgery, for example).
Filing a strong administrative claim
The first step is an administrative claim. You must follow the rules set forth in law by the FTCA.
Your claim must specify an amount of money you think makes sense given the nature of your injury. If it is too high, the claim may be rejected. If it is low and accepted by the government, you may not be able to come back for a more appropriate amount later. You must also present convincing evidence that is within the scope of the law’s requirements. This will include documentation of lost wages, medical expenses, estimates of future expenses and losses, a VA report and a statement from your doctor.
Filing a lawsuit decided in federal court
The next step, assuming the VA rejects your administrative claim, is to finally file the lawsuit itself in federal court. This too has a deadline, which is six months after they reject your filing or one year after your filing if you did not get a decision at all.
The decision process under FTCA in federal court does not involve a trial before a jury. A federal judge hears and decides the suit.
If the judge decides in your favor, the compensation for the damages you experienced will be based on the financial damage done by the injury as well as compensation for your pain and suffering.