Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a plaintiff’s allegations that she was injured when a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee negligently caused an accident while operating a USPS vehicle. The case is important for Maryland car accident victims because it required the court to determine if the plaintiff complied with the filing requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which may apply in certain Maryland car accident cases.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
Traditionally, the federal government was immune from lawsuits brought by citizens unless the government gave its consent to be named as a party. However, in 1946, Congress passed the FTCA, carving out certain exceptions to the general grant of governmental immunity.
In order to successfully bring a case under the FTCA, a plaintiff must comply with the procedural requirements contained therein. Relevant to this case were the filing requirements listed in 28 U.S.C. section 2401(b), which states that a plaintiff must file their case with the “appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues” or “within six months after the date . . . of notice of final denial of the claim.”
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a USPS vehicle. The plaintiff initially filed her claim with the USPS two weeks after the accident. Seven months later, USPS sent the plaintiff a notice denying her claim. The plaintiff then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the USPS eight months later.
The United States government was substituted as the defendant and claimed that the plaintiff failed to comply with the FTCA requirement that a claim be filed within six months of denial by the government agency. The plaintiff did not dispute that she filed her claim eight months after the denial, but she argued that she needed to only comply with either the two-year statute of limitations OR the six-month timeframe after the denial of her claim.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and dismissed her case based on her failure to comply with the FTCA’s requirements. The court held that both timing requirements must be met. In support of this holding, the court explained that to hold otherwise would give no force to the statute of limitations because a plaintiff would be able to wait as long as they wanted to file the claim with the appropriate agency, as long as she filed her personal injury lawsuit within six months of the denial. This, the court held, was not the legislature’s intent in passing the FTCA.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident involving a federal employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, very specific rules may apply to your case. The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling all types of Maryland and Washington, D.C. car accident cases, including those involving the negligence of state and federal employees. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Finds that Car Dealership’s Insurance Policy Did Not Cover Customers on a Test-Drive, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 7, 2018.
Appellate Court Discusses Employer Liability in Recent Pedestrian Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published July 17, 2018.