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Can You Sue the Federal Government for Medical Malpractice?


When a private physician’s treatment falls below the accepted standard of care and injures a patient, that is considered medical malpractice under Georgia law. The patient can sue that doctor (and their employer) in state court and seek compensation for their additional medical bills, lost income, and other economic and non-economic damages.

But what if the malpractice occurred in a hospital operated by the federal government, such as a military or veterans’ hospital? Can you sue the federal government as the responsible employer? The answer is yes, but there are some important caveats. Essentially, you can only sue the federal government in federal court, and you must rely on a special statute known as the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

Georgia Judge Clears Expert Witness to Testify in Malpractice Claim Against Army

The FTCA creates a civil cause of action against the United States for the negligent acts of its employees, including medical malpractice. The FTCA’s rules differ from those of normal Georgia personal injury law in several key respects. For example, you first need to file an administrative claim with the specific federal agency who wronged you. The agency then has 6 months to investigate and offer to settle your claim. Once the agency responds, you then have just 6 months to file a lawsuit.

In terms of medical malpractice claims under the FTCA, just as in cases brought under Georgia state law the plaintiff must produce at least one qualified expert witness to establish the act of healthcare provider negligence. In other words, a judge will not take your word for it that your government doctor messed up. (FTCA cases are tried by judges without juries.) You need to find a healthcare provider in the same or similar field who can explain (1) the applicable standard of care for your case and (2) how the defendant’s actions–or inactions–failed to meet that standard.

Do not expect the government to accept your expert witness without a fight, either. For instance, in one recent Georgia case, Hughes v. United States, the government tried to exclude the experts of a plaintiff’s expert in an ongoing medical malpractice case. The plaintiff has alleged that a physical therapist at a U.S. Army hospital “improperly applied a hot pack to her shoulder” during a post-surgical session. As a result, the plaintiff said she suffered a severe skin burn that required additional surgery.

The plaintiff’s proposed expert is a physical therapist. The government argued the witness was unqualified because he does not specialize in burn industries. The judge overseeing the case said that did not matter. The witness regularly used hot packs, like the one at issue in this case, in treating patients. He could therefore testify as to the standard of care for properly using such hot packs in providing physical therapy.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

If you have been injured through the improper care of your doctor or any other health care provider, it is imperative that you seek out legal advice from a qualified Cobb County personal injury lawyer. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.


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