I am a veteran and receive my care at the local VA hospital. They made an error and injured me for life. Can I assert a medical malpractice claim against them, or are they protected from lawsuits because they are a government agency?
The VA can be sued for medical negligence, but certain special rules apply and the failure to follow them can have very serious consequences. Claims like yours are governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act.
As but one example, a special form must be filled out and filed to initiate the claim. This form gives the government formal notice of the claim and suit cannot be filed until six months after proper notice has been given. The completion of this notice form can materially affect the right of the claimant, and therefore it is recommended that a lawyer be consulted before notice is given.
After suit is filed, a medical malpractice claim against the VA proceeds like most other medical malpractice claims, except that the case is defended by government, not private attorneys. There is no right to a jury trial. Instead, the case is decided by a federal judge.
Our firm has represented claimants in FTCA claims and, in fact, have a trial against a different federal government agency this summer. The case will be tried in Federal Court in Nashville in June.