If you have been injured due to the negligence of an individual or an entity in New Jersey, you have the legal right to seek compensation for those injuries, damages and medical expenses caused by the other party. What happens when the party responsible for your accident is a public entity, such as the State of New Jersey, or a smaller public entity such as a municipality, county, local government agency, or even a school? If your injuries are caused by a public entity, your claim becomes much more complicated.
The Tort Claims Act and Title 59
New Jersey has established special defenses that allow immunity for public entities and public employees from being sued in certain circumstances. This is sometimes called “sovereign immunity.” This means that government entities are “immune” from certain claims and lawsuits from being filed against them. It means there are additional rules and notice requirements that must be filed in order to file a claim against a public entity. It also requires a higher degree of negligence in some instances. And, it also requires that you suffer a significant permanent injury in order to even make a claim. Therefore, some injury claims can be brought against private entities cannot be brought against public entities.
Filing a Claim Against a NJ Public Entity
One of the most important issues to determine when making a claim against a public entity is determining the appropriate public entity or public employee responsible for your injuries. In determining the correct party, you can learn whether this entity or employee can raise the immunity defense against your claim. Since this defense is available to all public entities, it is used in every case. Therefore, you must be able to prove that the entity was not just negligent, but that their wrongful conduct that caused your injury was palpably unreasonable. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able help you navigate through the serious pitfalls and defenses that will be used against your claim.
And after you determine the appropriate public entity responsible for your injury, you must also establish that your injury is serious enough for compensation under the Tort Claims Act. The Statute protects all public entities from claims and lawsuits unless the injury suffered caused significant permanent disability or impairment. A personal injury attorney will be able to advise whether your injury is serious enough to qualify for compensation.
There are other defenses available to public entities. Certain public entities may be immune from claims caused by snow and ice, while private entities and companies can be sued for accidents caused by snow and ice. Always consult with an experienced NJ personal injury attorney. Just because your injury may have been caused by snow and ice on public property does not mean you do not have a claim either. For example, the public entity may have hired a private company to remove snow and ice from its premises. If this is the case, you can make a claim for your injuries against the snow removal company hired by the public entity. This was the exact scenario for one of my clients who fell after a snowstorm at a County Courthouse. We made a claim against the County and then discovered the private company that was hired for snow and ice removal. We were able to successfully obtain compensation against the private company.
What Are The Notice Requirements for Claims Against Public Entities
Under the Tort Claims Act, you are required to file a Notice of Claim in 90 days from the date of your incident. If you miss the 90-day filing period, your claim may be barred forever. There are certain limited cases when you can file a late claim after the 90-day period expires. This must be filed within 1 year and be approved by a Judge in Court, which can be very difficult to do.
In addition to the 90-day requirement, there is specific information that must be included in your Notice of Claim. You must include specific information about your claim, specific information about the public entity or employee that caused your claim, details about how the accident happened, any injury, medical treatment, photographs, and medical bills must also be supplied. The public entity must be provided with sufficient details surrounding your claim in order to investigate the accident. A personal injury attorney will be familiar with the information that is required by Tort Claims Statute to be included in your notice of claim.
Do You Need An Attorney For A Claim Against A Public Entity?
Yes. The rules for filing a timely notice of claim against a public entity are very complex in New Jersey. If you miss the deadline to file the notice required under the Tort Claims, you can be barred forever from making an injury claim. Also, an attorney is required in order to get past the tort claim immunity for both negligence and significant injuries caused by a public entity.
Also, an attorney is critical to determine the correct party and public entity to file a claim against. For example, if you are injured on a public school’s property, an experienced attorney will know whether you need to bring a claim against the town and the town’s school board. A municipality is a separate public entity from a municipality’s board of education. Again, if you do not timely file notice against all correct public entities, your claim can be barred.
Another example is when you are injured on a public road. Is the town, the County, or the State responsible for maintaining that road. Your attorney will be able to identify the correct parties and make sure all responsible public entities receive notice of your claim on time.
NJ Transit Bus and Rail companies are also public entities. They are subject to the same Tort Claim Act immunities and defenses as all other public entities. An attorney will be able to make sure that this agency is also provided with notice of your claim if it is responsible for your injuries.
If you or a loved one is injured in an accident in NJ, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these claims. An experienced NJ Injury Lawyer will know how to conduct an investigation and contact the insurance company so you can make a claim for your injuries. My NJ Injury Lawyer Howard P. Lesnik, Esq. offers free strategy sessions to address any issue or questions you may have about your accident claim in NJ.
Please contact NJ Injury Lawyer Howard Lesnik, Esq., immediately if you were involved in a NJ accident. I personally handle NJ personal injury cases on a regular basis. Please contact me now by email, by phoning 908.264.7701, or by completing the form to the right to schedule your complimentary 30-minute strategy session.