The action of filing a lawsuit with a vehicle owned by the US Government can be tricky. Postal vehicles, government contractors and the like are governed by a totally different set of rules than wrecks that happen by normal people on our roads. For example, US Government cases must be heard in Federal Court and not State District Courts. Failure to know the difference can lead to major problems if you don’t handle your case accordingly.

Think of the federal court system and state court system as two different playgrounds where legal games are played. Which playground you go to depends on what game you want to play (the type of case you have) and who you're playing against (who is involved in the case).

Federal Court Jurisdiction

First, let's talk about what "federal court jurisdiction" means. Jurisdiction is basically the power or authority a court has to make legal decisions and judgments. Federal courts have jurisdiction over certain types of cases. Imagine you have a box, and only certain things can fit into this box:

Federal Question: These are cases that involve a question under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or treaties. If your legal question is about interpreting the Constitution or a federal law, it belongs in federal court. Diversity of Citizenship: This means the parties involved are from different states (or a party is from a different country) and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. It's like saying, if you're playing a game with someone from a different state and the prize is big enough, you play in the federal playground. Cases involving the U.S. government: When the United States government is a party in a case, like being sued or suing someone, these cases often go to federal court because it involves the federal government directly.

Filing Against the U.S. Government in Tennessee Following an Auto Accident If you're involved in an auto accident with a vehicle owned by the U.S. government, you might think about suing the government. This is a unique situation because normally, you can't sue the government due to something called "sovereign immunity," which means the government is protected from most lawsuits. However, there's a big exception called the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which allows individuals to sue the federal government in specific cases, including some auto accidents involving government vehicles.

Here's the catch: you can't just go straight to filing a lawsuit. First, you have to file a claim with the federal agency responsible for the vehicle involved in the accident. Only after they deny your claim (or if they don't respond in a certain time frame), can you file a lawsuit in federal court.

Choosing the Proper Location (Venue) In legal terms, "venue" refers to the proper or most appropriate location for a court case to be heard. When suing the U.S. government under the FTCA, you typically file your lawsuit in the federal district court that covers the area where the incident occurred or where the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) lives.

Tennessee Has Three Federal Judicial Districts:

Western District of Tennessee 

Middle District of Tennessee

Eastern District of Tennessee

You would file your lawsuit in the district that covers the county where the accident happened or where you live, or if you don’t live in Tennessee, in the judicial district in which the act or omission complained of occurred. (See 28 U.S.C. Section 1402). This makes it more convenient for witnesses and evidence to be gathered and presented in court.

Wrapping It Up So, if you were in an auto accident in Tennessee involving a U.S. government vehicle, you'd start by filing a claim, called a “Form 95) with the appropriate federal agency. If necessary, you'd then move to file a lawsuit in the federal district court that has jurisdiction over the place where the accident happened or where you reside.

Think of it as a step-by-step process where you're moving through a system designed to handle disputes of this nature, ensuring that you're playing in the right legal playground based on who's involved and what the dispute is about.

GriffithLaw handles cases against the US Government in all jurisdictions throughout Tennessee, obtaining justice for our great clients. If you believe you may have a claim against the Federal Government, call me to discuss your case and see if we may be of service to you.

John Griffith
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Nashville Personal Injury Trial Attorney
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