If you have been injured in an accident where someone else was at fault, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit. However, if your injuries were caused by the negligence of a government employee or agency, there are special laws that must be complied with before filing a lawsuit. Specifically, the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, otherwise known as Title 59. See (N.J.S.A. 59:1-1 et seq.).
The Tort Claims Act was implemented to afford heightened protection to "public entities," which the Act defines as "the State, and any county, municipality, district, public authority, agency, and any other political subdivision or public body in the State." N.J.S.A. 59:1-3. Consequently, this means the Act applies to every town, city, borough, etc. located in New Jersey, as well as all public services, agencies, and groups that are fully funded by State or municipal governments.
When is a Public Entity Liable?
Pursuant to Section 59:2-2(a), public entities are liable for injuries an employee causes "within the scope of his employment in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances."
Examples of this situation include, but are not limited to:
- You are involved in a motor vehicle accident wherein the driver of the other vehicle is a government employee who is doing his/her job (e.g., NJ Transit);
- You are injured by a dangerous property condition (e.g. slippery/wet floor) on State government property, such as the Motor Vehicle Department, and the employees overseeing the property were notified of the condition but failed to warn or rectify the issue.
Additionally, the Tort Claims Act includes a verbal threshold provision. This provision provides that "[n]o damages shall be awarded against a public entity or public employee for pain and suffering resulting from any injury; provided, however, that this limitation on the recovery of damages for pain and suffering shall not apply in cases of permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement, or dismemberment where the medical treatment expenses are in excess of $3,600.00." N.J.S.A. 59:9-2(d).
Filing a Claim Pursuant to the Tort Claims Act
Time for Presentation of Claims
The Tort Claims Act requires that a person bringing a claim against a public entity, file a "notice of claim" within ninety (90) days of the date of the incident. N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. Failure to do so, in most cases, will result in an absolute bar to recovery against the public entity or its employees. The claimant must then wait six (6) months from the date he/she files his/her Notice of Claim, before filing a lawsuit. Id.
Contents of Notice of Claim
In addition to meeting strict deadlines, the Tort Claims Act further prescribes that a claim must include:
- The name and post office address of the claimant;
- The post-office address to which the person presenting the claim desires notices to be sent;
- The date, place and other circumstances of the occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted;
- A general description of the injury, damage or loss incurred so far as it may be known at the time of presentation of that claim;
- The name or names of the public entity, employee or employees causing the injury damage or loss, if known; and
- The amount claimed as of the date of presentation of the claim, including the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss, insofar as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim, together with the basis of computation of the amount claimed.
In addition to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, several seminal New Jersey court cases supplement the Act. To ensure you comply with these special laws, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these types of claims. Here at Farrell & Thurman, P.C., our attorneys have extensive experience handling claims against public entities and we are available to discuss all aspects of said claims. We offer a variety of convenient ways to schedule a free, no-pressure consultation. You may do so directly on our website (Schedule a Consult), via phone (609-924-1115), or by email (Contact Us).