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Seeking recovery against federal health care providers: an overview of the FTCA, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the Federal Tort Claims Act, under which those harmed by federal health care providers may seek recovery from the federal government. Under the FTCA, the federal government may be held liable in the same way, and to the same extent, as a private hospital or health care provider would be liable.

One difference, though, is that the FTCA does not allow plaintiffs to obtain punitive damages. For those who aren’t familiar with them, punitive damages are not intended to compensate the plaintiff but rather to punish the defendant in a civil context. The damages available to plaintiffs in FTCA claims are limited to compensatory damages, which are the monetary losses stemming from the negligence asserted. 

Another difference is that the federal government is allowed to assert defenses based on immunity that are otherwise available to federal employees, as well as other defenses unique to the federal government. While the FTCA is considered a general waiver of the defense of sovereign immunity, there are some circumstances where a plaintiff may not be entitled to recover damages due to immunity.

Another important point to mention is that the remedies provided in the FTCA for those harmed by a federal health care employee are exclusive, meaning that no other legal remedies are available. For this reason, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who understands the remedies available under the law and who understands how to build the strongest possible case to maximize damages awarded to the plaintiff. 

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