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Federal Tort Claims Act — Notice of Claim

The Notice of Claim Requirement

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a person who plans to file a personal injury action against the federal government must present a written “notice of claim,” or “administrative claim,” to the government agency that is allegedly responsible for the injury. A notice of claim is a prerequisite to a personal injury action against the federal government. If no notice of claim has been given, a court will dismiss the action.

Contents of the Notice

A notice of claim must include sufficient information to permit the agency to investigate and evaluate the claim. The notice must describe the injuries sustained by the claimant and the alleged negligence of the government employee. In addition, the notice must state the exact dollar amount of damages that is sought by the claimant.

Delivery of the Notice

The written notice of claim must be delivered to the government agency that is allegedly responsible for the claimant’s injury. For example, if the claimant plans to file a personal injury action against the U.S. Department of Transportation, the notice must be presented to the U.S. Department of Transportation. If the notice has been presented to the wrong government agency, a court may dismiss the action.

Timing of the Notice

The notice of claim must be delivered to the appropriate government agency within two years of the claimant’s injury. If the notice is not given within the two-year period, the claimant’s personal injury action may be dismissed.

Filing a Lawsuit after the Notice

Under the FTCA, the agency has six months to accept or deny the claim. The claimant may file a personal injury action against the government after the six-month period expires, even if the agency has failed to accept or deny the claim. If the agency denies the claim, the claimant must file a personal injury action within six months of the denial.

Generally, the claims in a personal injury action under the FTCA must match the claims presented to the agency in the notice of claim. A plaintiff may not seek a greater amount of damages than he sought in his notice of claim.