When Can Indiana Accident Victims Hold the Federal Government Liable?

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a statute designed to allow private individuals a way to hold the government and their employees responsible for tortious acts that they commit. Before the passage of the FTCA, the government was immune from lawsuits based on the theory of sovereign immunity. However, the FTCA allows Indiana injury victims to hold the federal government responsible for their negligent and wrongful acts. However, the FTCA has 13 exceptions to the waiver of immunity, including the often-cited “discretionary function” exception.

The discretionary function exception bars lawsuits based upon claims that arose based on a government actor’s discretionary function or duty. Generally, the court will engage in a two-step inquiry when the government cites this exception. First, the court will look at whether the actions involve an element of judgment or choice, as opposed to a ministerial duty. If an element of choice or judgment exists, then the court will look to whether the judgment was the kind of decision that the exception was designed to shield.

For example, recently, two families sued the United States government under the FTCA when a tree limb fell, killing their sons at a national park. The families filed wrongful death claims against the government, arguing that the park safety officials knew or should have known about the danger of the tree and failed to warn visitors of the threat. The government successfully moved to dismiss the claims, stating that evaluating and responding to the hazard was a discretionary function which was entitled to immunity.

The families appealed the lower court’s ruling arguing, arguing that the discretionary function exception should not bar their lawsuit. Specifically, the families claimed that there was a specific process by which park employees were to follow to evaluate the safety of a campground before allowing campers on the site. The appellate court agreed that the park officials were required to assess the tree based on technical criteria outlined in the park’s policies. Thus, the evaluation and subsequent decision was not a discretionary one. The court conceded that this does not mean that the park was negligent in their ultimate decision to permit campers to camp, only that the government is not immune from liability. The final decision will be left up to the jury.

Indiana victims who suffer injuries at one of the three national parks in the state or other government property might be able to hold the government responsible for their damages. Lawsuits based on governmental negligence can be challenging, and the government will often employ one of the exceptions to avoid liability. Indiana injury victims should contact a dedicated personal injury attorney to assist them in their lawsuit.

Have You Suffered Injuries on Government Property in Indiana?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries on government property or because of a government employee’s negligence, you should contact the Indiana injury attorneys at Parr Richey. The attorneys at our firm understand the unique challenges that government liability lawsuits pose and can help you successfully resolve your case. The skilled attorneys at our firm have years of experience assisting Indiana premises liability plaintiffs to get the compensation they deserve. We routinely obtain significant sums of money on behalf of our clients, including awards for the payment of lost wages, medical bills, ongoing pain and suffering, and property damage. Contact the attorneys at our office at 888-532-7766 to schedule your initial consultation.