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About the Federal Tort Claims Act


The Federal Tort Claims Act was established as a federal statute in 1946. This act allows private parties, or citizens, to file lawsuits against the United States of America in a federal court. Prior the FTCA, government officials and employees were under what was called “sovereign immunity”, disallowing anyone from filing lawsuits against them.

However, under public duty doctrines, not all states follow the FTCA. Many states, including New Mexico, believe the public duty doctrine is an outdated idea. They believe that if the government is responsible for something, they should be held up to those duties just like all other citizens are.

The Iowa Supreme Court recently made headlines when they ruled to upkeep the longstanding public duty doctrine after an Iowa woman was suing the county for not upkeeping the roads. Her and her husband hit a concrete wall in a ditch which violates the Iowa safe road right-of-way law. She was paralyzed, incurred head injuries and broken bones.

If this were to happen in New Mexico, the county in which the accident occurred would be held responsible for not maintaining the roads. In the case of trucking accidents, we’ve discussed in previous blogs the many parties who may be at fault:

  • Driver
  • Trucking Company
  • County or State
  • Private Party

In the case of a large, big-rig truck or 18-wheeler causing an accident due to faulty roads, the county or State is held liable. Whichever government is responsible for upkeep on that particular road or in a given area, will be held responsible for any damages, crashes or collisions.

For anyone to file a FTCA lawsuit, claiming they were injured, harmed or had property damaged by a federal employee they must prove the following:

  • The injury or property damage was done by a federal government employee.
  • The federal government employee in question was acting within the scope of his or her official duties.
  • The federal government employee in question was acting wrongfully or negligently.
  • The wrongful or negligent act caused the injury or property damage at hand.

If you or a loved one have been wronged, harmed or had property damaged at the fault of a New Mexico county, Buckingham & Vega is here to help. We will take a look at your case, free of charge, and care for you and your family with the best representation possible.

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