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Suing the federal government for medical error

Last time, we spoke about current efforts by the Department of Defense to expand a program aimed at increasing transparency between doctors and patients when a medical error occurs. Regardless of how helpful the program is in resolving disputes when medical errors occur, it is unlikely that any such program will completely eliminate the need for litigation.

Those who have been harmed by a military doctor are, as we pointed out, not able to pursue the doctor directly for medical negligence, but there is the possibility of seeking compensation for the negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The law constitutes the only way for those harmed by a government physician to seek compensation. 

In order for a facility or provider to be protected from medical malpractice liability, the federal government must deem the facility or provider to be a federal employee under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Once approved, the facility or provider may not be sued for malpractice.

When a patient files a claim with the federal government for medical negligence under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the claim is reviewed and/or litigated by Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the General Counsel and the Department of Justice. Going through the process requires not only knowledge of the Federal Tort Claims Act and associated federal regulations, but also guidance in navigating the federal court system.

Those who have been seriously harmed by a government physician should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney to have their case evaluated and to determine whether pursuing a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act is appropriate in their case. 

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