Federal Tort Claims Act - Overview

The Federal Tort Claims Act

Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the federal government cannot be sued without its permission. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a federal law that waives the federal government's sovereign immunity under certain circumstances.


The FTCA applies to claims for property damage, personal injury, and wrongful death caused by the negligence of a federal government employee who is acting within the scope of his or her employment, under circumstances where a private person would be liable under state law.


The FTCA is the exclusive remedy for a person who wishes to file a personal injury action against the federal government.

Notice of Claim

Under the FTCA, a person must give written notice of his personal injury claim to the government agency that is allegedly responsible for the injury. The notice of claim must be given before a lawsuit is filed and within two years after 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.

A plaintiff may file a personal injury action against the federal government within six months after the claim is denied, or six months after the notice of claim is given if the agency fails to act on the claim.


A plaintiff may recover only money damages under the FTCA. Punitive damages are not available under the FTCA.

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