“Can I sue the VA for medical malpractice?” This is a question that we have been asked a lot over the years. It is always made in connection with the same scenario—we receive a call or email from a veteran (or a family member of a veteran) seeking guidance as to what legal rights exist in light of substandard medical care given by the Department of Veterans Affairs (which I will refer to in short throughout this blog post as the “VA”). The answer is technically no – it is not possible to sue the VA. According to federal law, federal agencies such as the VA cannot be named as defendants to lawsuits for the torts (i.e., civil wrongs including negligent acts) of their employees. However, don’t stop reading this blog post just yet. An individual injured by a VA employee’s negligence does have a legal right to recovery, it is just not directly against the VA itself. Rather, the veteran (or his or her family member, depending on the situation) may be able to sue the United States government for damages resulting from VA employees’ malpractice. However, some points must be made about this process. The first (and most important) is that the process of suing the United States is one laden with technicalities which, if not followed, will result in a forfeiture of your claim before you ever file the lawsuit. We have observed the United States attempt to exploit these technicalities on several occasions to have a veteran with a meritorious claim “thrown out of court.” The second is that lawsuits against the government can be filed in a number of locations (called “jurisdictions”), and each jurisdiction does things differently according to local rules and customs. These local requirements can offer strategic advantages and disadvantages in the case and can also operate as a pitfall for the unknowing traveler trying to navigate litigation without an experienced guide. The third is that there is a time limit placed on the process to pursue a claim against the United States (this can take the form of a “statute of limitations,” a “statute of repose,” or both). Failure to comply with the timing requirements will also prevent successful pursuit of the veteran’s claim. This is all a longwinded way of saying—veterans and their family members who have been injured by VA employees’ medical malpractice do have legal rights, and it is important that those rights be protected by counsel with experience. At Rawls Law Group, we represent the rights of veterans and their families on a daily basis and have been doing so for years. If you or someone you know has been injured as a result medical care offered by the VA, let us help by providing a free review of the case. It never hurts to be informed of your options.
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