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What is The Federal Tort Claims Act?


Enacted in the 1940s, The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides the legal mechanism for compensating people who suffered personal injuries as a result of negligence or wrongful actions by United States government employees.

This statute removed the power of the federal government to claim immunity from lawsuits seeking compensation for damages due to negligence or injury caused by a federal employee while on the job. It stipulates the regulations and procedures for filing these personal injury claims and gives jurisdiction to federal district courts. While it does not cover every type of wrongdoing by federal employees, it does include assault, false imprisonment, and abuse of process by law enforcement officers.

The medical malpractice connection

In the healthcare arena, The Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act of 1992 and 1995 extended FTCA protections to health centers supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Bureau of Primary Health Care.

In other words, employees and eligible contractors of HRSA participating healthcare centers are considered federal employees. They are therefore immune from lawsuits for malpractice claims related to the services they provide on the job.

Patients who believe they are victims of malpractice by one of these healthcare centers cannot sue the center or provider directly. They must file claims against the U.S. Government, which assumes responsibility of these costs. Claims are reviewed and if necessary litigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the General Counsel and the Department of Justice in accordance with FTCA guidelines.

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