MALPRACTICE AT FEDERALLY FUNDED CLINICS OR HOSPITALS
If you go into your local clinic for medical care, you may be in for a surprise: a doctor or nurse who looks like a private practitioner could really be a federal employee.
Thousands of local community clinics and free clinics receive financial support from the federal government and are therefore “deemed” federally funded clinics for purposes of the FTCA. Normally this won’t impact your care, but if you have a potential medical malpractice claim, it greatly impacts where and how you file your case. It can be difficult to find out when a provider is covered by the FTCA, and there are a host of FTCA presuit requirements and deadlines that could destroy your claim if you don’t comply. This has caught many lawyers by surprise, unfortunately too late to timely file an FTCA case – which puts your case at risk, instead of the negligent health care providers.
If you have been the victim of medical malpractice at a federally funded clinic by an individual that has been deemed an employee of the United States federal government, you can only file suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). There are over 300 federally funded clinics in Texas alone and perhaps thousands across the country. These clinics may not always advertise their federally funded status, but it’s important to know because that will determine whether you can bring a case under the FTCA. If you bring a lawsuit against one of these clinics without realizing that the facility is under the Federal Tort Claims Act, your entire lawsuit may be thrown out of court.
If you have a potential FTCA medical malpractice case arising out of a community clinic, you may need to investigate whether that clinic receives federal funding and/or the providers responsible are “deemed” federal employees for purposes of the FTCA. Our attorneys have significant experience in determining whether a facility is federally funded.
(FTCA) Deemed Facilities & FQHCs
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves access to healthcare for Americans who are uninsured or medically vulnerable. The HRSA Health Center Program provides financial support to healthcare providers offering primary care services to underserved populations. These clinics are known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC).
In general, FQHCs exist to bring much-needed public health and medical services to areas that have insufficient healthcare resources. FQHC must satisfy criteria established by the HRSA: they must operate under a governing board, that board must include health center patients, and the health center’s fees must be on a sliding scale according to the patient’s ability to pay.
Medical Malpractice at Federally Qualified Health Centers
The Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act of 1992 and 1995 amended federal law to extend FTCA malpractice insurance to more federally funded health centers. These facilities are eligible to obtain federal government medical malpractice insurance in the form of FTCA coverage. With the federal government providing the insurance, a medical malpractice claim against the health center is a claim against the federal government.
Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) coverage applies to healthcare professionals at deemed facilities—those being FQHCs that comply with all regulatory requirements. To receive FTCA insurance coverage, a health center must submit an initial deeming application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care. A community health center that receives this coverage is known as a “deemed facility” and its eligible providers are considered federal employees who have no personal liability for medical malpractice claims torts.
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Sue a Deemed Health Center for Negligence
If you have experienced been the victim of medical malpractice at a federally funded clinic by an individual that has been deemed an employee of the United States federal government, your only option for restitution is via the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
If you have a potential FTCA medical malpractice case arising out of a community clinic, you may need to investigate whether that clinic receives federal funding and/or the providers responsible are “deemed” federal employees for purposes of the FTCA. The attorneys at Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham, and Jacob, PLLC have significant experience in determining whether a facility is federally funded and can offer assistance.
It can be difficult to find out when a provider is covered by the FTCA, and there are a host of FTCA presuit requirements and deadlines that could destroy your claim if you don’t comply. This has caught many lawyers by surprise, unfortunately too late to timely file an FTCA case – which puts your case at risk, instead of the negligent health care providers.
How Do You Know Whether a Clinic Is “Federally Funded”?
There are over 300 federally funded clinics in Texas alone and perhaps thousands across the country. These clinics may not always advertise their federally funded status, but it’s important to know because that will determine whether you can bring a case under the FTCA. If you bring a lawsuit against one of these clinics without realizing that the facility is under the Federal Tort Claims Act, your entire lawsuit may be thrown out of court.
You can use many techniques to determine whether you are dealing with a federally funded clinic, including:
- Look at the Clinic or Facility’s website. Sometimes you will be able to find out whether the clinic is “deemed” covered by the FTCA.
- Ask the clinic directly.
- Contact the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) of the Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department.
- Searching the Health and Human Services (HHS) website for “deemed” facilities. HHS has multiple methods of searching and sometimes you have to know where to look. Contact us with questions on your specific case and we may be able to evaluate it.
- If you or your attorney has Westlaw or LexisNexis database access, search those databases for specific information related to the facility.
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How Do I Sue a Federally Funded Clinic for Medical Malpractice?
First, you must remember that you cannot file a lawsuit against an employee of the federally funded clinic. Instead, you must file suit against the United States of America under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Before you can file suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, individuals must follow the strict rules of the Federal Tort Claims Act.
- You must file a Standard Form 95 with the appropriate agency. With federally funded clinics, you must additionally make the determination of what agency to file your claim with. If you do not file your claim with the appropriate agency, you may forfeit your rights to bring a lawsuit.
- You must state the nature of your claim and what’s called a “sum certain.”
- You have to file the Form 95 within 2 years of the date of accrual.
Once the Form 95 has been filed with the appropriate federal agency, then you must work with the agency to resolve your claim. There are a lot of pitfalls if you do not know what you are doing. If you cannot successfully resolve the claim administratively, you have the option of filing suit so long as you file within the appropriate limitations period. Our attorneys have decades of trial experience and are able to assist you in this process. Please contact us if you need a free evaluation of your claim. Once you have filed your form 95, you must wait at least 6 months (maybe more depending on the course of your administrative claim) before you can file a federal lawsuit.
If you believe you are a victim of FTCA medical malpractice, call us now—if you wait too long, it may be too late.
Contact Our Federal Tort Claims Act Lawyers
If you or your loved one suffered harm due to medical malpractice at a federally funded health center, our law firm is here to help.
At Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng, Alsaffar, Higginbotham, and Jacob, PLLC, our FTCA attorneys have the skills, knowledge, and expertise that you can count on. If you have questions about FTCA deemed facilities and FQHCs, we are here to help.
Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. From our office in Austin, we provide national representation in FTCA claims.
Case Results Against FTCA Deemed Facilities
With experience handling Federal Tort Claims Act malpractice insurance issues, including cases involving FTCA covered facilities and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), we have a long record of successful results in claims against the government.
For example, we helped a family who suffered the wrongful death of their precious child due to the medical negligence of the providers at a federally funded health center in Oklahoma. Their 12-year-old boy came to the clinic for treatment. The federal employees at the clinic failed to properly diagnose a hip infection. As a result, the boy became severely ill with sepsis and died. Our client began the FTCA claim process and later decided to sue the Department of Health and Human Services. We represented the family of the boy in court. The result of the case was an initial trial judgment of $1,903,961 for the family which was reduced to a $1,675,000 settlement on appeal. The family recovered $1,150,000 after fees and expenses.
You can look at our national reach page to see our success in states across the United States. You can also see our full results on our case results page. Here are some of the cases that we have won against Federally Funded Clinics:
What is an FTCA Deemed Facility?
An FTCA deemed facility is a health center whose employees receive FTCA malpractice insurance from the federal government. These facilities are HRSA-supported health centers that meet certain requirements to achieve deemed status.
What Does the Federal Tort Claims Act cover?
The Federal Tort Claims Act covers a negligent or injurious act or omissions committed by an employee or agent of the federal government while acting within the scope of his or her employment. If a private party is injured by such a negligent act, the federal employee (or agent) would be immune from a lawsuit, but the injured party could seek restitution by filing a claim against the federal government under the FTCA. With a few exceptions, the act does not cover intentional torts committed by government employees and it does not protect U.S. Government contractors unless they are acting as employees.
What is a Notice of Deeming Action?
Health Centers receive this notice, along with employment verification documents for specific employees, to confirm liability coverage for injury or death for medical, dental, surgical, and other related functions performed by Public Health Service employees while acting within the scope of employment.
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