Generally, a private citizen may not sue the government because the government enjoys the protections provided under sovereign immunity. However, mail delivery drivers are not immune from car accidents. So, when an accident happens, you can’t simply file a lawsuit against a United States Postal Service (USPS) worker as you would against any other negligent driver. There is a separate personal injury claim process you must adhere to when an accident involves a government employee such as a USPS driver. Whether you were involved in a vehicle accident with a USPS delivery truck or injured while visiting a USPS facility, it is important to understand the steps you need to take to file a claim.
USPS Accident Reporting Policy
The USPS has a comprehensive accident reporting policy to ensure that all accidents involving USPS employees or property are properly documented and investigated. The policy applies to all USPS employees, contractors, and visitors involved in an accident while on USPS property or performing USPS-related duties.
Under the USPS accident reporting policy, employees must report all accidents, regardless of how minor they may seem.
When involved in an accident with a USPS vehicle, you should follow all appropriate state laws for dealing with an automobile accident. You may also report the accident to 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). Your concern will be documented and forwarded to local management.
Next, it is important to understand how to file a claim for an accident with USPS.
Federal Tort Claims Act
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a federal law that allows individuals to file a claim for damages against the U.S. government for the negligence of federal employees, including USPS employees. Essentially, this Act provides an exception to the rule that you can’t sue the government.
Under the FTCA, individuals who suffered harm as a result of the negligence of a USPS employee may be eligible to file a compensation claim. To do so, the individual must first file an administrative claim with the USPS, as outlined below. And if the claim is denied or the individual is not satisfied with the settlement offer, they may file a lawsuit against the United States government in federal court.
If you are considering filing an FTCA claim, it makes sense to consult an attorney with experience in federal tort claims. An attorney can help you understand your rights under the FTCA and assist you in filing a claim or lawsuit against the United States government.
USPS Auto Accident Claims
The USPS claims process in its initial stage is relatively straightforward. A claimant should complete and file a U.S. General Services Administration Form 95 claim within the statute of limitations time frame—or two years from the date of the vehicle accident.
When completing the form, you will need to provide detailed information about the accident, including the date and time of the incident, the location of the accident, and a description of the damages or injuries. To support your claim, you must provide supporting documentation, such as medical bills, treatment records, or repair estimates.
Claims should be filed with the Tort Claims Coordinator for the Postal Service District Office where the accident occurred. Alternatively, the claim may be filed at any office of the Postal Service or sent directly to the Chief Counsel, Torts, General Law Service Center, USPS National Tort Center, 1720 Market Street, Room 2400, St. Louis, MO 63155-9948.
After filing the claim, the process becomes more complex. The USPS will review your provided information and determine whether you are eligible for compensation. If your claim is approved, the USPS will provide you with a settlement offer, including the amount of money that the USPS is willing to pay to settle your claim. You might go back and forth for a while with counter offers, but the hope is that your case will settle at this stage and save everyone the time, expense, and effort of a formal lawsuit that ends in a trial. Your settlement offer may include compensation for economic and noneconomic damages.
If your case does not settle during the administrative claims process, the next step is to file a lawsuit and proceed to federal court. You will have six months to file a lawsuit. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over FTCA claims. Because federal courts operate much differently than state courts, hiring an attorney who is experienced and familiar with federal court procedures and FTCA cases is important.
Facts Determine Outcome
Ultimately, the facts of your case will determine the outcome. Your attorney must prove that your property damage or personal injuries were caused by a USPS driver on duty during 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.
Unlike private individuals, the USPS is self-insured and does not carry vehicle insurance because it is exempt from state vehicle insurance statutes. Additionally, unlike private insurance companies, the money you can recover is not limited to the applicable auto insurance policy that was in effect at the time of the accident.
Economic damages represent direct financial losses resulting from your accident. These damages include the following:
- Medical expenses,
- Lost wages,
- Loss of future earnings, and
- Property damage.
Tangible evidence, including receipts, invoices, pay stubs, and bills, support your demand for economic damages.
Noneconomic damages represent the psychological and emotional losses caused by the accident. These damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress,
- Permanent disability,
- Loss of enjoyment of life, and
- Loss of consortium.
Without the assistance of a qualified personal injury attorney, these damages are difficult to obtain and quantify due to their subjective, intangible nature. Overall, starting, negotiating, and finalizing a personal injury claim with the USPS is difficult and confusing for non-professionals. An error or mistake may result in you receiving nothing for your injuries.
Do You Need Help Filing a Claim for an Accident with USPS?
Over the years, the lawyers at Gerling Law Injury Attorneys have represented thousands of people and recovered more than $500 million for our clients. With over five decades of experience, Gerling Law has firmly established itself as willing to take on insurance companies and large corporations. We work for clients all over Indiana. Our team is skilled, passionate, and determined to help you regain your life. Contact us today for help with filing a USPS accident claim.