Coast Guard Medical Malpractice
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The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five major branches of the military and plays a major role in protecting Florida's waterways. It is unique as a multi-mission service and operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime but can be directed by the President (or Congress) and transferred to the Department of the Navy during time of war. If you are a non-active duty service member, a dependent or a retiree, you have a right to seek compensations for medical injuries or wrongful death under provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for stateside malpractice or under provisions of the Military Claims Act (MCA) for medical negligence that occurred outside the U.S. boundaries. Active-duty Coast Guard members are prohibited by the "Feres doctrine" from bringing suit against the federal government as other resources are available for recovery.
If you are active duty Coast Guard and were injured at sea or in an aircraft accident, you should consult with a military medical negligence lawyer in Jacksonville that also has expertise in representing maritime and aviation injury cases. Contact the experts at Spohrer & Dodd today for a no-cost consultation.
What's the Difference Between the FTCA, MCA and Feres Doctrine?
Let's assume that a Coast Guard family member was being treated at a military medical facility and due to the negligence of a military doctor was injured during routine surgery. Despite the malpractice, the individual recovered but incurred off-base medical bills and has limited vision in one eye. Here is the difference:
- Federal Tort Claims Act
When the medical negligence claim discussed above is filed under the FTCA, the injured party is allowed to sue the United States government based on the laws of the state in which the accident happened. An administrative claim is filed and the government has up to six months to resolve the issue and settle the claim, or a case can be filed as a non-jury trial in federal court.
- Military Claims Act
Assuming the malpractice discussed above occurred in a foreign country, an administrative claim would be filed against the offending government agency (Coast Guard, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines). If the case is ruled in favor of the claimant, a settlement is paid. If not, there are no provisions for suing the United States. There is an appeal process through the Department of Defense but that judgment is considered to be final.
- The Feres Doctrine
Let's assume the claim discussed above involved an active-duty Coast Guard family member. A couple of years after Congress passed the FTCA, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government is not responsible for injuries to members of the armed forces sustained in the course of duty. The Supreme Court has upheld this ruling on numerous occasions citing other sources exist for compensation of injuries to active-duty service members.
There are exceptions to the FTCA, MCA and Feres doctrine that impact all branches of the military, including the Coast Guard. When a personal injury occurs and the offending health care provider is an independent contractor or the claimant was injured by a defective medical device, the personal injury or wrongful death claim can be pursued under civil tort laws against the offending provider, manufacturer or distributor. Military malpractice and medical negligence is a very complex area of the law. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact a personal injury attorney at Spohrer & Dodd with experience in handling FTCA and MCA claims to determine your best legal actions.