Link to contents

Administrative Services


Tort Claims

Effective December 22, 2005, the Administrative Support Manual (ASM), subchapter 25, is revised to reflect the current procedures and organizational responsibilities for investigating accidents and adjudicating tort claims under the existing Postal ServiceTM organizational structure. Certain tort claims are no longer adjudicated at the San Mateo Accounting Service Center and are now adjudicated at the St. Louis Accounting Service Center. Tort claim adjudication at the district office level is the responsibility of customer service analysts who have been designated as tort claims coordinators. The revisions were also necessary to reflect the organizational changes made in the General Counsel organization. Previously, tort claims and tort litigation were handled by the General Counsel's field offices. In 2002, the National Tort Center was established to adjudicate tort claims and manage tort litigation.

Administrative Support Manual (ASM)

* * * * *

2 Audits and Investigations

* * * * *

25 Tort Claims

251 Responsibilities

[Revise title of 251.1 to read as follows:]

251.1 Definition

[Add text to read as follows:]

Tort claims are claims for damage to or loss of property, personal injury, or death to nonpostal personnel caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee while acting within the scope of employment.

[Delete sections 251.11 through 251.2. Insert new sections 251.2 through 251.4 to read as follows:]

251.2 Authority

The Postal Service is authorized to settle tort claims pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Tort Claims Act and related regulations. 39 U.S.C. Section 409(c); 28 U.S.C. Section 2672; 28 C.F.R. Section 14.

251.3 Policy

Postal Service policy is to promptly and willingly discharge its legal responsibility to those persons who claim damages pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act.

251.4 General Services Administration (GSA)

General Services Administration is responsible for tort claims arising from accidents at facilities under GSA control, when the accident is not caused by postal employee negligence.

252 Accident Investigation

[Revise title of 252.1 to read as follows:]

252.1 Installation Head or Designee

[Renumber text under 252.1 as 252.11. Add sections 252.12 through 252.18 to read as follows:]

252.12 On-Scene Investigations

Prompt on-scene investigations are required for both vehicular and nonvehicular accidents that involve damage to private property or personal injury to a private party, or for those that involve damage to postal property caused by the actions of a private party. District tort claims coordinators do not generally conduct on-scene investigations. The initial investigation is the responsibility of the installation head or employees that have been designated by the installation head as on-scene investigators. The on-scene investigator should contact his or her district tort claims coordinator at the time of an investigation or immediately after returning from the accident scene. Further investigation may be required based on the advice of the tort claims coordinator.

252.13 Duties

The on-scene investigator has the following responsibilities:

a. Conduct both an on-scene and a follow-up investigation of all postal-related accidents that involve damage to private property or personal injury to private parties. Investigations must include the completion of required investigation forms and photographs of the accident scene, as well as photographs of any vehicles involved in the accident and any other objects relevant to the accident (make sure to record on the photographs, or on an attached form, the photographer's name, the date the photograph was taken, and a description of the subject of each photograph). Detailed investigation instructions are located in Handbook PO-702, Accident Investigations - Tort Claims.

b. Submit a report of each accident to the district tort claims coordinator and include all required investigation forms and photographs. Keep a file (copies of all forms and photographs) in the installation files.

252.14 Forms Required

252.141 Standard Form 91

Standard Form 91 (SF 91), Motor Vehicle Accident Report, is carried in each government motor vehicle, privately owned government-operated motor vehicle, and by each employee using a bicycle or light vehicle. The form is filled out by the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident, regardless of the extent of injury or damage, and whether or not the parties involved state that a claim will be filed. Vehicle operators should not give any statements, written or oral, at the scene of the accident, except information required by law to be furnished to a police officer, other drivers, or parties involved. The driver's supervisor should complete SF 91 Section X, Details of Trip during Which Accident Occurred. This section should include the supervisor's certification as to whether the postal employee was acting in the scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident.

252.142 Form 1700

Form 1700, Accident Investigation Worksheet, must be completed for both vehicle and nonvehicle accidents by the on-scene investigator.

252.143 Standard Form 94

Standard Form 94, Statement of Witness, must be provided to all available witnesses to an accident. Instruct vehicle operators and other employees to obtain the names and addresses of any persons who may have witnessed the accident.

252.15 Accidents Involving GSA-Controlled Buildings

Advise the GSA building manager or other GSA official, as soon as practical, of the accident. Conduct a normal investigation whenever the accident involves a postal customer or the area of the building where the accident occurred is used by the Postal Service.

252.16 Accidents Involving Non-Postal Service-Owned Vehicles

A normal investigation should be conducted if a postal employee acting within the scope of his or her duties is involved in an accident while operating a leased or rented vehicle, a GSA vehicle, or his or her own private vehicle. An investigation should also be conducted when a rural letter carrier is involved in an accident on the way to or from work in the vehicle he or she uses to carry the mail on his or her route.

252.17 Accidents in Leased Facilities

Investigate all accidents involving private persons that occur in leased or rented postal facilities just as fully as those occurring on postal-owned premises. In accidents caused by or alleged to be the result of structural defect, state if, when, and how notice of the defect and needed repairs was given by the Postal Service to the landlord before the accident occurred. Advise whether or not the lease contains a provision requiring the landlord to make repairs.

252.18 Other Accident Investigation Responsibilities

Tort claim investigation procedures do not replace or otherwise reduce a manager's or supervisor's investigation obligations under the Postal Service's Safety Program, which are set forth in detail in parts 821 and 822 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.

[Delete sections 252.2 to 252.4. Add new 252.2 to read as follows:]

252.2 Tort Claims Coordinator

252.21 Designation

Each district designates a customer service analyst (or on occasion some other appropriate employee) to serve as the district tort claims coordinator. The individual assigned must be properly trained to perform this function.

252.22 Duties

The district tort claims coordinator has the following responsibilities (Handbook PO-702, Accident Investigations -Tort Claims, fully details the tort claims coordinator function):

a. Advises Post Office personnel and promotes their accident investigation proficiency.

b. Makes sure that all information, exhibits, and documentation about accidents involving personal injury to private persons or damage to private property are gathered and forwarded in a timely manner for their evaluation.

c. When a claim is received, determines if any necessary follow-up action is required.

d. Ensures that, when applicable, claims are settled and payments made within the tort claims coordinator's authority (see 254.1).

e. Promptly forwards the completed investigative file to the adjudicating authority (see 254) when a tort claims coordinator cannot resolve the matter locally.

f. Decides whether personal assistance is necessary at the scene or if guidance to the local investigator suffices when notified of the accident.

g. Makes and negotiates affirmative claims on behalf of the Postal Service for damages to Postal Service vehicles and/or real property resulting from the negligence of others.

[Revise title of 253 to read as follows:]

253 Administrative Claim Procedures

[Revise sections 253.1 and 253.2 to read as follows:]

253.1 Assistance

Any person who inquires about how to file a claim should be advised to contact the district tort claims coordinator, who will provide a full explanation of the claim procedures and an SF 95, Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death. How- ever, written tort claims can be filed and must be accepted at any Post Office or other postal facility.

253.2 General Instructions

Any postal employee who receives a completed tort claim form or other writing indicating that it is a claim should immediately stamp or write the date received on the claim and on any copies of the claim, and sign his or her name next to the date. The claim should then be forwarded to the district tort claims coordinator.

[Add section 253.3 to read as follows:]

253.3 Restrictions

Except as required by law, Postal Service management employees should not provide information to any nonpostal personnel (including lawyers, private investigators, insurance adjusters, etc.) regarding a postal accident or tort claim without prior approval from the tort claims coordinator or the Postal Service Law Department.

[Revise title of 254 to read as follows:]

254 Claims Payment Authority

[Revise 254.1 to read as follows:]

254.1 Local Payment of Personal Injury and Property Damage Claims

District managers, or their designees, are authorized to expend up to $5,000 to resolve tort claims. District tort claims coordinators are designated to exercise that authority by negotiating with tort claimants, though the approval of an intermediate manager may be required prior to payment. When it is in the interests of the Postal Service, tort claim coordinators can on occasion resolve claims for an amount greater than $5,000, but only when receiving prior authorization from a Law Department attorney. Any such authorization is provided after Law Department review of the claim and it must be in writing (correspondence, facsimile, or electronic mail).

[Revise 254.2 through 254.4 to read as follows:]

254.2 Multiple Claims

If more than one claim arises out of a single accident, the district manager's designee may resolve each claim presented, if none of the claims received or anticipated exceed the delegated authority of $5,000.

254.3 Unauthorized Payments

Tort payments should not be made by tort claims coordinators on any of the following types of claims:

a. Any claim arising out of the loss, miscarriage, or negligent transmission of letters or postal matter.

b. Any claim arising out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel, slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contract rights.

c. Any claim submitted by a federal agency.

d. Any personal injury claim submitted by a postal or other federal employee acting in the scope of their employment.

e. Any claim for damage caused in an accident where the motor vehicle involved was operated by an independent contractor, such as a highway contract route carrier.

254.4 Denial of Claims

Local postal officials are not authorized to deny tort claims. Claims that are recommended for denial by the tort claims coordinator must be forwarded to the appropriate adjudicating authority.

* * * * *

We will incorporate these revisions into the next printed version of the ASM, and also into the online version, available on the Postal Service PolicyNet Web site:

• Go to

• Under "Essential Links" in the left-hand column, click on References.

• Under "References" in the right-hand column, under "Policies," click on PolicyNet.

• Click on Manuals.

(The direct URL for the Postal Service PolicyNet Web site is

— General Counsel, 12-22-05