Not too long ago, a Veterans Administration Medical Center settled a medical malpractice lawsuit with an Army veteran for approximately $750,000. Complications from an unnecessary surgery left the veteran permanently disabled. He followed all the required steps for suing the Veterans Administration (VA), which admitted liability without going to trial.
Other veterans have also won their medical malpractice lawsuits. In fact, it is estimated that the VA pays approximately $100 million every year to settle around 3,000 claims.
Suing a governmental entity, like a veterans’ hospital, is not easy, but it can be done. The medical malpractice attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC have the experience that veterans need to assist them with the complicated process.
Medical Malpractice Requirements
If you are a veteran, the first step in pursuing your claim is to determine if you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit pursuant to Florida state law. There are many examples of medical practitioners being held liable for injuring patients when the provider fell below the required standard of care. When this happens, their patients who were harmed by their action or inaction can sue them to collect the damages they suffered as a result of the negligence.
Evaluating Your Claim
Before you take the complicated and somewhat involved step of suing the veterans’ hospital and its doctors, do your own evaluation of your clam. If you can prove the following, then you are ready to undertake the filing of an administrative claim with the government under the Federal Torts Claim Act (FTCA).
- The healthcare professional is a federal employee whose negligence was the cause of your injury.
- The negligence occurred within the scope of the employee’s employment.
- You incurred damages as a result of the negligent conduct.
- Florida state law would allow your lawsuit to proceed if state law instead of federal law applied.
One of the most difficult things for you and your attorney to determine is who can be sued under the FTCA. Many times, workers at veterans’ hospitals are independent contractors, not government employees. You may still be able to file a lawsuit against the independent contractors under state law in a separate case, but you cannot sue them under the FTCA.
How to Sue the VA: The Federal Torts Claims Act
Even though it is a theory stemming from the historical principle that the king, or sovereign, cannot be sued, the rule still applies: You can only sue the government if it grants you permission to do so. That is where the FTCA comes in. It provides a way for anyone injured due to the negligence of a federal employee to file a lawsuit for damages.
If you were the victim of medical malpractice, you can file a claim for damages with the Veterans Administration, but there are some intricate rules you need to follow.
You need to file an administrative claim within two years of the date the claim arises. You can use a Standard Form 95 that you file with the FTCA Regional Counsel (not with the hospital or practitioner whose negligence was the cause of your injuries). You must give notice to all of those you allege were responsible for your injury, tell them you have filed the administrative claim, and that you plan to sue them if your claim is denied.
You must also include as many facts about your case as possible in support of your claim. Your claim must also include the exact amount of money you expect them to pay you. After you file your claim, you wait for a response.
What Happens Next: The Waiting Game
The Veterans Hospital is supposed to respond to your administrative claim within six months of your claim’s submission. If you do not get a response in that time, you do not need to do anything. The time for you to file a lawsuit in court does not start to run until you get a response. The response can be:
- An unequivocal denial of your claim.
- An offer to pay you a portion of your claim.
- Full payment of the amount you requested.
If your claim is denied, or you refuse to accept less than the full amount of your claim, you must file a lawsuit within six months of the date of the denial of your claim. It is imperative that you do not miss the deadline. If you do, you will likely lose your opportunity to collect damages for the harm that was caused you.
If you were a victim of medical practice due to the negligence of a health care provider employed by a veterans’ hospital, our attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC, can help. We offer a free consultation. Do not let your time run out. Contact us today.