Patients should not be injured by medical mistakes. It should not happen, and when it does, something should be done to fix the situation and help the patient. But our veterans? The men and women receiving medical care in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics—care that they earned through their military service—they certainly should not have to suffer injuries from medical mistakes.
Unfortunately, injuries from medical negligence in VA hospitals and clinics happen all too often. If you talk to veterans who receive VA healthcare, then you probably know what I’m talking about. So what can legally be done if you are a veteran (or a veteran’s family member) injured by negligent medical care at a VA or government facility? You can file a claim for the injury under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
An FTCA claim works differently than a malpractice lawsuit against a private doctor or hospital. In the FTCA, you start by submitting a claim (and your medical records) to the agency responsible for your injury. The agency has time to review the claim then either deny it or make a settlement offer. If your claim is denied or the settlement offer is not good enough, then you can file a malpractice lawsuit in federal court. At that point, the FTCA claim becomes more like a traditional lawsuit, with pleadings, discovery, and a trial. Like most private cases, many FTCA claims settle before trial.
There are two gray areas of injuries that are only partially covered by federal law: (1) injuries of active-duty servicemembers and (2) injuries that occur overseas.
Both of these situations fall under the Military Claims Act (MCA), which is different than the FTCA. The main difference is that you cannot sue under the MCA. So if your MCA claim is denied or the government makes a low settlement offer, you cannot take the next step and file suit. In the MCA, you are stuck with what they give you. I’ve handled MCA claims as well as FTCA claims.
Pursuing a FTCA case is quite different than negotiating a claim against an insurance company or private defendant. The rules governing FTCA claims are a unique mix of federal and state laws. If you believe you may have an FTCA or other federal claim, be sure your injury lawyer actually knows the ins and outs of this unique area of law.
I’ve been working on FTCA claims since before law school: in 2007, as a law clerk reviewing claims about Hurricane Katrina, and since 2014, as a lawyer working on FTCA claims nationwide. I know how to read a chart and review patient medical records. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no doctor, so when the medical issues are over my head, I know when and who to contact for expert help with medical questions.
If you or someone you know was injured by an agent of the federal government, I can help. Contact me.