Joining the military is a life of commitment and dedication towards one’s country. In the line of duty, injuries may occur, which calls for medical treatment. Negligence and malpractice may happen during treatment. Unfortunately, you cannot sue the military in court if a service member dies of neglect. Also, an army officer getting injured isn’t enough to take the military to court. Many people don’t discover this until they attempt to put forward a claim.
History of Suing the Military
The “Feres v. United States” case began as a lawsuit countering the national government in 1950. The case went to the Supreme Court following the death of Army Lt. Rudolph J. Feres. The 31-year-old died in a barracks fire in 1947 in New York.
Rudolph’s widow sued the army under the FCTA. She claimed the superiors knew that the barracks were a danger zone due to a defective heating system. In addition, there was an incompetent overnight watch to catch any emergencies.
By the time it reached the Supreme Court, two other complainants had joined the case. The first complainant had a medical negligence case on behalf of Arthur Jefferson. After performing a gallbladder operation, a surgeon left a towel inside Arthur’s abdomen.
The second complainant was the widow of Army Lt. Col. Dudley A. Griggs. She filed suit after his death. Army Lt. Col. Griggs lost his life from surgery complications of medical malpractice. The Supreme Court then pronounced the Feres case. It established that active military members could not file for damages under FCTA.
Feres doctrine is a 1950 Supreme Court decision. It hinders active-duty members from indicting the military. The Feres doctrine is a legal principle that prevents only army members from charging the federal government. The United States Supreme Court attached it in Feres v United States in 1950.
The Feres doctrine often protects the government even at the cost of the victims. From 2010-to 2020, almost four thousand troops were injured in military vehicle accidents. It resulted in one hundred and twenty deaths in total.
Why is the Government Immune?
Sovereign immunity typically protects the government, in this case, the military, from lawsuits. Private citizens can take the military to court in certain circumstances. A countless number of civilians have been victims of their medical negligence. Also, they may have suffered severe personal injuries. Thus, one may be able to file a lawsuit against the military.
People connected to the military also suffer discrimination when dealing with the military. Often, the regular civilians suffer personal injuries or property damage. Some seek simple medical care at military options, which may cause some to suffer life-long injuries or even death at their hands.
Federal Tort Claims Act makes the U.S. legally responsible for many things. They include money damages, injury or property damage, and death caused by negligence. The governmental immunity was curtailed mainly in 1946 with the passage of FTCA.
Sovereign immunity protects the government from altering its policies whenever someone has an issue with them. Sovereign immunity is inconsistent with the United States Constitution. One cannot take the government to court unless it has renounced its immunity or accepted to be sued.
Sovereign immunity benefits only the government and not the people the government serves. An individual can sue the government employees only if negligence is a factor under FCTA.
Process of Filing a Military Claim
You may not sue the military, but you can put forward an administrative claim. It requires you to file with the military agency responsible. The claim should be within two years from the time you were wronged. The injured persons or a legal representative forwards the claim. Together with the claim, you need evidence to back the claim. Here are the examples
- Proof of a doctor-patient relationship through documents, records, or receipts.
- A record of the healthcare provider’s actions taken to correct the situation.
- A testimony of the actions that should have been taken by the health provider. Clinical practice guidelines guide these.
- Evidence showing the actions that resulted in harm or injury. Ensure that your condition is due to malpractice and not a medical condition.
- A proof in full records showing the expenses during treatment.
There are special cases to claims that may be payable under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Individuals may file a completed petition with the Environmental Protection Agency. It is usually done at their official addresses. A letter acknowledging receipt of the claim when received by the agency is presented.
Additionally, one might get informed if you have failed to file a complete and valid claim. Get help filing a claim with one of our highly skilled attorneys.
After forwarding the claim to the Department of Defense, wait for reviewing and investigations to begin. The process takes about six months. If you receive a written denial, you may file an appeal for reconsideration. A request for reconsideration should contain a written explanation.
The explanation centers on why they should consider the matter in question. Put forward a lawsuit within six months after submitting the reconsideration. This is possible only when the request is denied. On the other hand, you can file suit in an appropriate U.S. District Court.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act?
The FTCA is integrated legislation brought into effect in 1946. It puts up a legal means for paying back individuals wronged by the military. Despite this, Federal Tort Claims Act allows individuals to recover monetary damages.
Active military personnel cannot file lawsuits against the federal government because of the Feres doctrine under FCTA. They may have suffered death, property loss or damage, or personal injury. Those adverse effects may result from negligence or wrongful act by the military.
What About the Military Families?
The doctrine builds up many unfair and unjust turns of events. It allows the United States military to steer clear of responsibility for negligence and gross negligence. Regardless of this, military families can take the federal government court.
Suing the government is usually done under the Federal Tort Claim Act for harm or negligence. There are quirks to the Feres doctrine that limit its application. It isn’t applicable if military spouses, offspring, or retired military staff file claims. The Feres doctrine doesn’t acknowledge that. The exception is that only if they suffered an injury due to the lack of care of the United States or its employees. Such injury cases include automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, and burn injuries.
Does Anyone Get Justice?
Most of the time, justice is denied to many military families and troops. Many view the Feres doctrine as a force field that deflects true accountability. It is seen as the root cause of medical malpractice physical and training deaths in the military.
Military justice is a legal administration relevant to army members and civilians. Justice, discipline, and good order are meant to be preserved in the military through the army. But this isn’t the case.
Military families continue to fight despite all this. There is no justice for victims of negligent training deaths up to date. A congressional amendment or the Supreme Court can change the Feres doctrine.
The Feres doctrine is lenient, but limitations are still there. If you have suffered medical malpractice or negligence in the hands of the military approach, seek a certified and trusted law expert to help you with the claiming process. We help our clients fight and advocate for their rights at our firm.
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