Can “the King” be Liable? | The Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity

Can “the King” be Liable?

What Is Sovereign Immunity?

Have you ever been hit by a U.S. Postal Service driver? How about struck by a military vehicle on the highway? These types of injury claims fall under a special set of procedures that require a much different process to be followed than a typical personal injury claim.

In the past, the doctrine of sovereign immunity prevented subjects from suing “the King.” The doctrine of sovereign immunity has carried over to modern times except “the King” is now the federal government.

The general rule is you cannot sue the government, period, unless the government gives you permission. Luckily, the FTCA (Federal Tort Claims Act) allows lawsuits against negligent federal employees who are acting within the scope of their employment.

As always, there are limitations to the types of claims you can make against “the King” under the FTCA. First, only federal employees can be sued under the FTCA, not independent contractors. Second, only claims for negligence are allowed, not claims for intentional misconduct. Third, the negligent conduct must have been done within the scope of employment. Lastly, the claims must be based on the law of the state where the misconduct occurred.

Most importantly, the FTCA sets out a strict procedure to follow before you can have your day in court. Here is a summary of how the procedure works:

  1. You must file an administrative claim with the appropriate federal agency within two years from the date of the incident. In your claim you must include the facts and damages, as well as the amount of money you are claiming.
  2. The agency has six months to respond to the administrative claim. The federal agency has six months to determine the validity of your claim. The agency can either deny, accept in full, or accept in part. If the agency rejects your claim or refuses to pay all the money damages you demanded, you may choose to file a lawsuit in federal court.
  3. You have six months from the date of the decision to file a lawsuit. However, you can only file your lawsuit once you have gone through the procedures listed above, this is called exhausting your administrative remedies.

Remember when suing the federal government for negligence you cannot file a lawsuit in state court. The process is much different that your typical personal injury claim. The only way to sue “the King” is by following the special procedures listed above.