Types and Requirements for Claims under the Military Claims Act
The Military Claims Act (MCA) is the overseas equivalent to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA allows injured parties to sue the United States government in federal court for personal injuries, wrongful death and property loss under certain circumstances. The MCA does not allow for a lawsuit, but does provide a vehicle for submitting negligence claims against U.S. government entities when their employees, acting within the scope of their duties, cause injury, wrongful death or property damage.
Common types of claims include:
- Medical malpractice against U.S. military doctors and hospitals in foreign countries
- Auto accident cases involving U.S. military vehicles
Persons who may file a claim under MCA include:
- U.S. civilians (including veterans)
- Dependents of active duty military
- Retirees living and working abroad
Active duty service members may not file a claim under MCA for injuries to themselves arising out of their active service; the Department of Veterans Affairs has exclusive jurisdiction over their remedy.
Filers must allege negligence by a U.S. government employee
The requirements to file a claim include eligibility and a showing of prima facie negligence. Basically, at first look, it must appear that:
- A person had a duty to act carefully
- That person breached the duty by acting carelessly
- The careless act or omission caused an injury
In a malpractice case, there must be a reasonable assertion that a medical professional performed at a substandard level of care causing injury to a patient. In an auto accident, there must be a reasonable assertion of careless driving.
The statute of limitations allows plaintiffs two years from the date of the incident to bring their claim. If the claim is denied, they can appeal. The appeal is not heard by a federal judge but by the same administrators who originally processed the claim.
Contributory negligence law can limit the damages you can recover
With regards to contributory negligence, the claim reviewers apply the law of the nation in which the injury event took place. If there is more than one defendant, the U.S. will only be responsible for the portion of damage that is directly attributable to the U.S. employee. The U.S. is not subject to joint and several liability, which would force it to pay the full amount if a second defendant was indigent.
Damages available to personal injury plaintiffs include:
- Economic damages, such as past and future medical bills and past and future lost earning
- Non-economic damages, including past and future conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress, physical disfigurement and loss of consortium between husband and wife.
The U.S. does not pay punitive damages or costs of litigation.
The MCA provides that once the claim has been processed, no lawsuit may be brought against the U.S. or the employee who caused the injury. Given the all or nothing nature of the MCA, it’s very important that before you file, you retain an attorney skilled in the nuances of this Act.