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What Do I Do When the Person Who Rear-Ended Me in California is an On-Duty Federal Agent?

Any injury-causing vehicle accident has the potential to present unique complications. Perhaps you were hurt in a complex multi-vehicle chain-reaction accident. Maybe you were hit by a hit-and-run driver. Or perhaps were hurt after a federal DEA agent slammed into you. Each of these scenarios has the potential to present complications, each in different ways. That’s why it pays to have an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney on your side from the start. Your skilled attorney has the knowledge to know how to address the unique complexities of your case and still guide you to a successful outcome.

The complexity of R.R.’s distracted-driving accident case was not a matter of how it happened, but who was behind the wheel. As R.R. was driving along Interstate 710 to work, he came to a stop. The driver behind him, who appeared to be distracted by something inside his vehicle, rear-ended R.R.’s vehicle.

At first, R.R.’s symptoms were minor. Imaging of his brain did not show anything irregular. As time passed, though, R.R. got worse. That’s not uncommon in a vehicle accident. A lot of times, it may take days or even weeks for symptoms of underlying accident-related problems to emerge. R.R. began experiencing dizziness, vision problems, headaches, vertigo and balance problems. R.R., it turns out, had a traumatic brain injury that had left him unable to drive and permanently disabled.

Now, if you’re hurt because a distracted driver rear-ended you, you typically would sue in state or federal court, assert a claim for negligence (in addition to possibly others) and proceed either to settle or take the case to trial. R.R.’s case wasn’t typical in that regard. The man who crashed into R.R. was a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and was on duty at the time of the accident.

Would you know what to do if that happened to you? Do you sue the agent? The agent’s personal auto insurance carrier? The DEA? All of them?

Actually, because the agent was an on-duty employee of a federal agency, your claim for damages would proceed against the agent and the federal government. In other words, your case would be “You v. the United State of America.”

The Federal Tort Claims Act and your injury accident

In an “ordinary” case, you would seek damages on the basis of the other driver’s common-law “tort” (a/k/a wrongful conduct) of negligence. When you’re suing the federal government, though, it’s different. Your claim is not under a common law tort, but is under a federal statute called the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). When you pursue damages in a FTCA claim in California, you need to have adequate proof that a negligent or wrongful act happened, that the actor was a federal employee who was “acting within the scope of his or her employment” and that the federal government would, if it were a private person, be liable under California law.

R.R. had all the evidence he needed to demonstrate the presence of all four of the elements of negligence that California law requires. Because R.R. and his legal team took the right procedural steps and had the right evidence needed to succeed in a FTCA action, he was able to obtain a judgment in his favor and an award of nearly $4.1 million in damages.

Each car accident case has its own unique elements, and sometimes those elements may have the potential to represent hurdles. To make sure your ability to recover compensation doesn’t get tripped up by these complexities, be sure you have the legal team you need. Count on the knowledgeable San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos and our decades of experience to help you get what they deserve. To set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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