What You Need to Know When Bringing a Case Against a Government Agency

Published on May 1, 2019 at 11:12 am in Medical Malpractice.

If you’ve been injured by a government agency, you can take legal action to hold the entity responsible, just like you can file a claim against any person or business. Taking action against a government agency, whether it be city, town, county, state, or federal, is a more complex matter. Claimants need to follow specific steps and abide by all deadlines.

In general, bringing a case against a government agency involves shorter time limits, strict notice requirements, and the possibility of immunity. There are a number of ways a person can be injured by a government employee or agency. If, for example, you were injured by a negligent physician while being treated at a federal hospital, you wouldn’t be dealing with a typical medical malpractice claim.

To build a strong case against a government agency and be awarded the compensation you deserve, it’s important to understand how suing an entity like that works and what factors could impact your claim.

Deadlines for Mississippi Personal Injury Claims

Under Mississippi law, an injured person typically has three years to file a personal injury claim. If, however, they are filing a claim against a government agency, they have significantly less time to take action. When filing a lawsuit against a government entity in Mississippi, you only have one year. The state also requires that all possible defendants be named at the beginning of the case. In addition to that, there are damage caps in place. Your lawyer will be able to determine what you are owed and what you are allowed to receive based on the state laws. In general, punitive damages are not allowed.

Suing a Federal Hospital

When thinking about situations where you might consider suing a government agency, the first that come to mind might be after receiving injuries in a car accident involving a police officer or slipping and falling on a hazard at a post office. There are, however, situations where filing a medical malpractice claim against a government hospital or employee is necessary. Most of the incidents involve taking legal action against a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.

VA hospitals are federally run and operated by the Department of Defense or Department of Health and Human Services. The vast majority of medical malpractice claims are filed after an employee injures a patient under their care. Just like at any other hospital, a negligent doctor could make a mistake with a patient’s care and seriously injure them. Injuries often happen during surgery or as a result of incorrect medication.

While all federal entities are protected from lawsuits under the concept of sovereign immunity, which we’ll get into later, there is a system in place to allow victims to sue the government. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) permits the pursuance of medical malpractice claims. While the majority of state med mal laws are in effect, the FTCA requires the plaintiff to provide a notice to the person or agency they’re suing. This must be filed before they can take official action and sue in court.

It’s important to recognize that while some physicians are considered employees of a hospital, others are considered independent contractors. If you are injured by a doctor who is an independent contractor, sovereign immunity and the FTCA do not apply. You can pursue a traditional medical malpractice claim.

Under the FTCA, you have two years after the date of the accident to file a claim. The claim must be filed with the agency that caused the accident. Your lawyer can help you determine who that party is. After you’ve submitted your claim, the agency has six months to issue a ruling. If you find the ruling unfavorable, you have six months to file a lawsuit.

How Sovereign Immunity Could Impact Your Claim

Prior to the FTCA, all governments were protected from lawsuits under sovereign immunity. This meant that they could not be tried in a court of law. Now, however, in addition to the FCTA, states have established parameters for when they can and cannot be sued. Mississippi Code 1972 Annotated § 11-46-9 establishes when state government entities are exempt from liability. In general, if a government agency and its employees are acting within the course and scope of employment, they cannot be held liable for a claim.

Taking legal action against a government agency may seem like an impossible feat, especially if you’re recovering from injuries. Fortunately, our lawyers have the experience needed to evaluate your situation and help you file a strong claim. If you’re ready to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions, contact our law firm today.

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