This article answers important questions about vehicle accident cases involving the United States Postal Service (USPS).
However, mail drivers get into accidents just the same as any other driver. They have to swerve around other vehicles, they can hit cars parked on the side of the road, and in general can be involved in the same kinds of wrecks as just about any other sort of motorist.
However, there is one thing that makes mail delivery drivers different from other motorists; they are in the employ of the federal government, and there are legal implications therein. If you were hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle owned by a private entity, you would, in all likelihood, be seeking compensation from an insurance company. But if you are seeking restitution after being hurt in an accident with a U.S. mail truck, then you will basically be suing the federal government, because government vehicles are not insured.
And as complex as taking legal action against a private entity can be, filing a suit against the federal government goes even farther beyond the scope of the layperson. It is essential that you hire an experienced attorney before pursuing this sort of litigation - if you choose to do so on your own, you must be informed up front that you will have nearly no chance of prevailing.
At Grossman Law Offices we have represented clients in these kinds of cases for the past two and a half decades. We have the knowledge and skill you will need in order to have the best possible chance of obtaining fair compensation.
Can I Sue the U.S. Postal Service for Causing an Accident?
The vehicles used to transport mail are not limited to the ones you see around your neighborhood on a daily basis. Mail is also carried by 18-wheelers from major postal distribution centers to your local post office. Most of the time, when an accident involving a mail vehicle takes place, again, that vehicle is owned by the U.S. Government. If it is not owned by the government, it is still owned by a sub-contractor working for the government. As such, the government may bear some degree of liability.
Again, if you are seeking compensation for an injury suffered in an accident with a mail vehicle, you will basically be seeking it from the federal government. And taking action against the government is vastly different from doing so against a private citizen or entity. There are a number of hoops through which you have to jump, and there are several limitations that will be placed on your case. Just like a regular personal injury lawsuit, however, you will still have to prove the liability of the party responsible for your accident. And in order to provide the proof that you will need to be able to win, you will have to have the help of an experienced attorney.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
In a nutshell, if you have a claim against the federal government, your only option is pursuing that claim through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). It allows victims of an accident involving a mail truck or other federal government vehicle to sue the U.S. government when the driver of that vehicle commits negligence that leads to a personal injury or death.
The limitations associated with pursuing an FTCA claim are too numerous to mention here. Some of the most significant, however, include:
- An accident victim is only allowed to sue federal employees through the FTCA. If you were hurt in an accident caused by the driver of a sub-contracted vehicle, you will have to pursue a traditional lawsuit (more on this later).
- Your claim has to be based on the law of the state where the negligence took place, and permitted by that state's law.
- The negligence had to have been committed within the scope of the defendant's employment.
While there are many, many limitations to filing an FTCA claim, and again, several hoops through which you will need to jump, there are many accident victims every year who win cases against the federal government. So this could very well be a claim that is worth pursuing - again, as long as you have the help of an experienced attorney.
It is very important to note that you have to file this claim in federal court. Very few attorneys, and even fewer laypeople, have the knowledge and experience necessary to prevail in federal court. This is simply due to unfamiliarity with federal court procedures; federal courts work much differently from state courts.
How Do I File a Claim in Federal Court (FTCA Claim)?
When you file a typical lawsuit because you have not been able to reach a settlement with the plaintiff in your case, then you basically head directly to a courtroom. However, if you are pursuing an FTCA action, you first have to file a claim against the agency responsible for your injury. In this instance, of course, you will be filing a claim against the U.S. Postal Service. The USPS will review your claim, and during this time period it is referred to as an "administrative claim."
Here is a brief breakdown of how the administrative claim process works:
- While you will have to comply with the standard statute of limitations that governs the amount of time that you have to take legal action, you have notification requirements that are different from those associated with state courts. This is yet another reason why you will need to get the help of an attorney who is familiar with pursuing FTCA cases.
- You also need to include the facts of your case as well as accurately calculate the financial losses, or "damages," that you have incurred due to your accident. Your claim not only has to include the exact amount of your damages, but the basic facts so that the USPS can investigate your claim's merits. While there are several kinds of damages that you could probably calculate yourself, such as lost wages and present medical bills, there are others that you will find nearly impossible without the help of an attorney. These include pain and suffering and lost earning capacity.
- Once you submit your claim, the USPS will have six months to respond. The possibility exists that the agency will choose to "admit" your claim (agree that it is valid) and agree to pay for all of your damages or a portion of them. In this instance, you may not have to go to court. This is, however, a rare occurrence.
- After receiving the agency's response, you then have six months in which to file a lawsuit if the USPS either refuses to pay all of your damages or rejects your claim flat out. Once again, taking legal action is of the essence, because if you wait, the USPS could simply dismiss your suit because it is not timely.
- It is important to note that you do not have to wait to sue until the agency issues a ruling on your claim. If, for example, the USPS does not issue its ruling for six months, then you can either wait for that ruling or proceed with your lawsuit.
The process outlined above is known as "exhausting your administrative remedies." Once you have completed this process, then you will be able to pursue a lawsuit against the government in an attempt to obtain restitution for the damages that you have incurred.
Options for Settling your Federal Tort Claims Act Claim
There are two ways that you can reach a settlement with the USPS and thus avoid having to go to court. The first is by agreeing to an out-of-court settlement during the administrative claim process with the government attorney assigned to your case. If you cannot reach an agreement with this attorney, however, there is still a chance that a settlement can be reached once you file a lawsuit. The reason is that when this happens, a new team of attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department will typically be assigned to the case. There is a possibility that these attorneys will look at your case differently, and as a result, be more amenable to a settlement.
But in order for either scenario to come about, you will have to have hard evidence that will compel the government attorney (or attorneys) assigned to your claim that it would be in their best interests to settle out of court. In order to convince the government that it would stand to lose more money in a trial, you have to have the hard proof that only an experienced attorney can help you provide.
What if the Mail Truck is Owned by a Private Contractor?
Again, in most cases, you can only file an FTCA claim against the government when you are injured due to a negligent act committed by a federal employee. Basically, you cannot file this kind of claim against an independent contractor hired by the federal government. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule:
- You can sue the government in this instance if your attorney can prove the government treated that contractor as an employee.
- You can sue the government if you can show it had the authority to control that contractor's performance, and exercised a significant amount of supervision over that contractor's activities.
Basically, what this boils down to is the fact that if the driver responsible for your accident works for a government contractor, your case against that driver and his employer will more than likely work as would a typical personal injury lawsuit and be subject to limitations, or caps, to the amount of compensation you can receive. You will have to prove the negligence of the parties responsible for your accident, and you will have to defeat formidable opposition in the form of an insurance provider or a self-insured trucking company. There could potentially be hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake in your case, and as a result, your opponent will work incredibly hard to defeat you. Your only real chance of winning is by getting the help of an experienced attorney who knows how to handle mail truck cases.
Call a Postal Vehicle Accident Lawyer Immediately
Whether your case is against the government or a private entity acting as a government sub-contractor, you will have to have hard evidence to prove your case. At Grossman Law Offices we have been representing clients in these kinds of cases for the past two and a half decades. We have helped thousands of injury victims obtain fair restitution, and we can do the same for you.
If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident with a mail delivery truck, please call the truck accident lawyers with Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 now.
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