Mail delivery drivers get into accidents just like any other driver; however, pursuing a personal injury claim against these individuals requires a quite different process than the standard lawsuit. Because mail delivery drivers are employed by the government, they are afforded certain protections and immunities.
What happens if you are involved in an accident with a USPS driver?
The process of suing a government employee is complex. These lawsuits are subject to strict requirements because government employees are generally shielded by sovereign immunity. When a government employee is liable for your injuries, they should be held accountable. However, establishing liability and recovering the compensation you deserve from a government agency on behalf of its employee is a challenging road, though not impossible.
With the help of a qualified, experienced San Diego truck accident attorney who understands the complexities of federal claims, such as those arising from mail truck accidents, you can overcome the hurdles to recovering the damages you are entitled to.
Suing the United States Postal Service
Unlike filing suit against a privately-owned carrier like UPS or FedEx, the United States Postal Service (USPS) is a government entity. Mail delivery trucks are not even insured, as sovereign immunity is far-reaching. Therefore, as government employees, mail delivery drivers are not insured.
While accident liability for an employee’s negligence would typically be the responsibility of the employer, here the employer is an agency of the federal government. Therefore, to pursue a personal injury claim against a mail delivery driver, the accident victim must sue the government rather than suing the individual and/or associated insurance company to recover damages.
Most mail vehicles are owned by the federal government or a sub-contractor working for the government. This means that the government may be liable for any accident involving a mail vehicle. It is not impossible to sue USPS, but overcoming the protections afforded to government agencies can be difficult. The process of seeking compensation after you are injured in an accident with a USPS worker is complex, full of limitations, and enough to deter some victims from even filing a claim. With the guidance of an experienced attorney, you will have the support and direction necessary to hold the responsible party liable for the accident and your injuries.
Federal Tort Claims Act
Generally, a private citizen may not sue the government because of the privileges and immunities afforded to its entities under the protection of sovereign immunity. However, there are exceptions under which the government has consented to be sued.
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is one of these exceptions. Under the FTCA, private citizens may sue the federal government under strict conditions and in limited circumstances. Specifically, when an individual is injured in an accident involving a mail vehicle, that person may sue the government under FTCA when the mail delivery driver’s negligence resulted in the person’s injuries or death. However, there are several hoops to jump through before a lawsuit is filed.
Before filing in court, the alleged victim must first file a claim with the responsible agency and allow the agency to resolve the matter outside of court. The claim must be filed using Form 95, within two years of the accident and it must include details about the accident and claimed damages. Known as the sum certain, alleged damages must be claimed with specificity, with an accounting of the amount being sought.
In the event of an accident involving a mail delivery driver, the responsible agency is USPS, so that is where the process begins. A claim must be filed with USPS within two years of the accident. USPS will then have six months to respond to the claim. The agency may admit liability and offer to pay some or all the alleged damages; however, the more likely outcome is a complete rejection of the claim, also known as a letter to sue. If the accident victim is unable to resolve the claim with the agency directly, filing a federal lawsuit is the next step. A private citizen may not file a federal lawsuit against the government under FTCA without enduring the six-month administrative claims process first.
Filing a Claim in Federal Court
If your case does not settle during the administrative claims process, the next step is to file a suit and proceed to federal court. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over FTCA claims. Because federal courts operate much differently than state courts, it is important to hire an attorney who is experienced and familiar with federal court procedures and FTCA cases specifically.
The federal attorney assigned to represent USPS may want to negotiate a settlement, however, there will likely be a lengthy discovery process on the way to trial. Usually, the federal judge will demand mediation so a settlement can be reached since the federal trial process is so costly for both parties and especially burdensome to the judicial economy.
While the facts of the case will determine the outcome, your attorney must be prepared to prove that your property damage or personal injuries were caused by a USPS driver who was working at the time of the accident. There must be proof of the USPS driver’s negligence or wrongful conduct while driving on the job, which caused the accident that resulted in property damage or injuries.
How we can help
If you have been involved in an accident with a USPS driver, you have the right to sue to recover the compensation you deserve, but you should not go it alone. Improve your chances of a successful claim by working with our knowledgeable, experienced truck accident attorneys. We understand the challenges associated with recovering compensation for an accident involving a government agency and will provide the guidance and support you need every step of the way, from the administrative process through a lawsuit in federal court.