Accidents Involving United States Postal Service (USPS) Vehicles
The United States Postal Service, commonly known as USPS, delivers mail and packages just like UPS or FedEx. However, the USPS is a federal government agency, unlike FedEx and UPS, which are privately-owned companies. This means that, if you were to be involved in an accident with a USPS vehicle, your path to legal action and compensation is different than if you were to make a claim against UPS or FedEx.
The Postal Service has over 228,000 vehicles and processes 19.7 million mailpieces each hour, according to the USPS website. The sheer volume of the federal mail system – especially if combined with the congested streets of places like New York City – can lead to accidents. If you have been involved in an accident with a USPS vehicle, you may be wondering what you can do. Is it possible to bring a lawsuit against the federal government? How does one even begin to do that?
The delivery vehicle lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to help you. Bringing a lawsuit against a federal government agency is a complex process, and you will need a knowledgeable attorney by your side. Read on to learn more, and call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form when you are ready to discuss your case with an expert lawyer.
Making a Claim Against the USPS
There are multiple steps to take if you wish to bring a negligence lawsuit against the USPS. As mentioned above, this is a very difficult process to undertake in general, much less on your own. For best results with your case, you should consult a personal injury lawyer who can walk through the steps with you.
The federal government is protected by sovereign immunity, meaning that private citizens cannot file a lawsuit against the government unless the government gives permission for the citizen to do so. Because this would make it nearly impossible for anyone to sue the government, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) was implemented in 1946, which waives the federal government’s immunity to lawsuits for certain kinds of cases.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
The FTCA details the steps a citizen must take in order to file a negligence claim against a government agency. It states that you are eligible to bring a claim against the government if you have been injured or suffered property damage due to the negligence of a government employee, who was working in the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. You also must be able to prove that the negligence of the employee directly caused your injury or damages. For example, if you were struck and injured by a USPS truck driving on its delivery route, you are likely eligible to file a lawsuit, since the driver of the truck (a federal employee) was negligent in their actions while working in the scope of their employment (delivering mail) and directly injured you by striking you with their truck.
There are exceptions to this rule: the claim would not be valid if the negligent person was an independent contractor hired by the government (and not an official employee), or if they were not acting in the scope of their employment duties (if the USPS driver had been on a lunch break, for example).
Statute of Limitations
Once you have determined you are eligible to bring a claim, you should do so as soon as possible. The statute of limitations, or the amount of time you have to file a claim before it is no longer considered valid, is two years. This could be different from state laws; for example, in New York, a person has three years to bring a personal injury claim, but in a case against a federal agency, the limit is two. In general, you should try to bring the claim as soon as possible after the accident occurs, in order to minimize the risk of the statute of limitations expiring.
Exhausting Your Administrative Options and Filing a Lawsuit
To start the process of actually bringing the lawsuit, you first have to exhaust your administrative options. Essentially, this means you cannot file a standard lawsuit right away. You must first submit the details of your claim, including the agency you are making the claim against and the exact amount you are asking for in compensation. This is done using Standard Form 95, which you can fill out yourself, but would likely have an easier time doing with a personal injury lawyer. If you fill out any part of the document incorrectly, then the claim will not be considered valid. Once this is filled out, the agency has six months to respond. They will either accept your claim and pay you some or all of the damages you requested, or they could deny your claim entirely. If that is the case, then you have six months to file a lawsuit against them.
To speak with an expert lawyer about making a claim against a federal agency, call 212-736-5300.
New York State Laws and USPS Accidents
Even though you are bringing a claim against a federal agency, your claim still has to be permitted by the state laws where the negligence took place. In other words, the procedure for bringing a claim against the USPS is dictated by the federal government, but in order to go through that procedure, you must have a valid negligence claim based on New York’s laws. Below are some of New York’s specific negligence laws and how they may apply in a federal case against the USPS.
Duty of Care: In New York, the law is quite similar to what the FTCA defines as negligence. The defendant has a duty of care towards the plaintiff, which they have breached in some manner. Subsequently, that breach directly caused the damages the plaintiff is suing for, and it is fair to say that those damages would help the plaintiff become “restored” to the state they were in before the accident or wrongdoing occurred. A car accident is a common example: all motorists have a duty to others on the road to drive safely and avoid accidents. If they drive unsafely they could breach their duty of care and cause an accident. The person injured in the accident could point to the driver’s negligence as the direct cause of their injuries and sue for damages that will help them return to their pre-accident state.
Comparative Negligence: New York is a comparative negligence state. Comparative negligence is a statute that states a plaintiff can still recover damages even if they contributed in some way to causing the accident. For example, if the plaintiff was driving with one of their brake lights out and the motorist behind the plaintiff rear-ends them, it is likely the defendant would be found to be negligent, since they were not paying enough attention to allow themselves time to stop when the plaintiff did so. However, it is possible the plaintiff would also be found partially at fault, since one of their brake lights was out, which could have been a contributing factor in the defendant not seeing that the plaintiff was stopping. If the accident occurred in New York, comparative negligence still applies even if you are bringing a claim under the FTCA.
Statute of Limitations: In New York State, the time limit that a plaintiff has to file a personal injury lawsuit is three years. However, if you are bringing a lawsuit under the FTCA, you only have two years to make your claim before the statute expires.
What to Do in a Crash with a USPS Vehicle
Being in a car accident with a mail truck often leads to the same kind of damages you might sustain in a crash with a privately-owned vehicle. You might be dealing with property damage (to your vehicle), pain and suffering due to various injuries, and emotional trauma. Under the FTCA, at the very least you may be able to make a claim for your physical injuries and/or the property damage, as long as they were caused by the wrongful or negligent acts of a federal employee.
If you have been in a USPS accident, here are some steps you can take in the immediate aftermath of the crash to ensure you have the best chances of making a valid claim:
- First and foremost, make sure you get medical attention. Not only will you receive treatment you need and ensure your injuries do not worsen, but knowing the extent of your injuries will help you determine all the damages you can make a claim for.
- Obtain a copy of the police report. If possible, write down all the details of the case as soon as you can. You will need to provide a detailed summary of all the facts of the incident when filing your claim.
- Take stock of all the damages you believe you are owed, as you will have to provide the exact amount when filing the claim.
- Contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can help walk you through the complex process of filing a claim with the USPS under the FTCA, including filling out Standard Form 95 for you.
Contact a USPS Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision with a USPS vehicle, the commercial vehicle lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are here to provide you with legal help. Filing a claim against the United States Postal Service means you are bringing a lawsuit against a federal government agency, which is a complex process. In order to have a chance of being successful with your claim, you will need to obtain the help of an expert personal injury lawyer.
The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy have extensive experience handling cases in which delivery or commercial vehicles were involved. Noteworthy results include:
- $14,000,000 settlement for a 23-year-old mechanic who was struck by a left-turning truck while riding his motorcycle, resulting in a below-the-knee amputation of his leg
- $13,500,000 settlement for a 24-year-old pedestrian who suffered catastrophic injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, after she was struck by a company-owned car while walking home
- $9,950,000 settlement for a 28-year-old social worker who had to have her left leg amputated above the knee after she was struck by a commercial van that suddenly sped into the grocery store parking lot where she was standing
- $8,800,000 settlement for a 53-year-old grandmother who suffered a traumatic brain injury and orthopedic injuries after two vans collided in the street, causing one to jump onto the sidewalk and hit her
- $7,525,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the surviving family of a mother and son who were tragically killed when a commercial van forcefully collided with the family’s vehicle
- $3,375,000 settlement for a delivery man who was rear-ended by a company-owned truck at an intersection, causing herniated discs that required spinal fusion surgery
- $2,760,000 settlement for a 60-year-old retired man who suffered severe neck and back injuries when he was struck by a UPS truck while sitting in his cousin’s double-parked vehicle
- $2,700,000 settlement for a 23-year-old construction worker who sustained a fractured patella, among other serious injuries, after being struck at an intersection by a left-turning commercial truck
- $2,400,000 settlement for a customer service technician who suffered a litany of back injuries after being rear-ended in traffic by a Boars Head truck
- $1,850,000 settlement for a 43-year-old paraprofessional who suffered a herniated disc and pinched nerve that required spinal surgery after she was backed into by a delivery truck
- $1,750,000 settlement for a 40-year-old man who was forcefully rear-ended by a company-owned vehicle and underwent surgery for back and shoulder injuries
- $1,675,000 settlement for a 37-year-old mother and salesperson who injured her neck after a collision with a delivery truck
- $1,500,000 settlement for a 62-year-old cab driver who suffered serious neck and back injuries after he was rear-ended by a delivery truck while driving in Manhattan