Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Clients in Shrewsbury, Tinton Falls, Long Branch, Spring Lake, and Monmouth County
If you’ve been injured or suffered property damage by an employee or employees of the State of New Jersey, you should be aware that there is a process to redress your complaint, though it may be a bit more challenging than a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act
In New Jersey, as in all 49 other states, people who have been injured in an accident in which someone else was at fault have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
But if you have been injured through the negligence or actions of a government employee or agency, getting compensation is often a bit more complicated. In New Jersey, in a situation like this, you will probably need to file a claim that adheres to the strict procedure laid out in the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.
In general, the act preserves and protects the common-law rule of “sovereign immunity.” This rule prevents individuals or companies from bringing claims against the government. There is one exception, which is spelled out in Section 59:2-2. This section creates specific exceptions to Title 59, and the exceptions allow people who are injured by the negligence of a public entity to bring a claim against the government—in some cases. You can read more about the New Jersey Tort Claims Act in Title 59 of the New Jersey Statutes.
What Are the Exceptions to The New Jersey Tort Claims Act?
Section 59:2-2, states that public entities are liable for injuries one of its employees causes “within the scope of his employment in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.”
To say it in other words, if you had a strong enough case that you could file against a private citizen who injured you, then you can file the suit against the public entity.
Here are some situational examples of when this rule might apply:
- you are hit by a vehicle driven by a government employee who is doing his or her job, or
- you are injured by a dangerous property condition on state government property (at a state Motor Vehicle Commission office, for example) and those in charge of the property were notified but did not fix the condition or warn visitors.
Just be aware that the New Jersey Tort Claims Act limits damages in several important ways. For instance, Section 59:9-2(e) says that if you have insurance that covers your injury, the amount you receive (or could receive) from your insurer is deducted from any damages award you might receive from the state.
And if you want to file for pain and suffering damages as part of your claim, you must meet the requirements of Section 59:9-2. This section states that pain and suffering damages will not be awarded unless “permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment” have occurred and “medical treatment expenses are in excess of $3,600.” If your case does not meet these two thresholds, you can still seek damages for losses like medical expenses and property damage. You will be barred, however, from seeking damages for pain and suffering.
Filing a Claim Under the Tort Claims Act
Section 59:8-4 of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act spells out the basic information that a claim must include:
- name and address of the claimant
- date, location, and “other circumstances of the occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted”
- “general description of the injury, damage or loss incurred” to the extent that you have this information when you make this claim.
- name(s) or names of the employee of the public entity who caused the injury or loss, if known, and
- the amount you’re claiming as of the date of presentation of the claim, including the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss, in as much as you know it at the time you file the claim, together with the basis of computation of the amount claimed.
The State of New Jersey provides claim forms on its website. The first step to filing a claim is to fill out one of these claim forms and submit it to the Tort and Contract Unit, Bureau of Risk Management, New Jersey Department of the Treasury. The address is given on the form.
Also, many local and municipal governments in New Jersey provide instructions and forms for filing claims against the government. For example, the City of Newark provides a claim form on its website.
Time Limits in New Jersey
Your window of opportunity to file a claim against the New Jersey state government is brief—only 90 days from the date of the incident. You must file within 90 days or the state will not consider your claim. The state may take up to 90 days to accept or reject your claim once the form is filed.
In some cases, a court may agree to extend the time to file a claim for up to one year. However, this decision is made on a case-by-case basis.
Ocean County, NJ Personal Injury Law Firm
At Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh, our attorneys have extensive experience in filing claims under The New Jersey Torts Act in such a way that your claim has the best chance of being accepted by the state—and then paid by the state.
Speak with our firm today for a comprehensive and confidential case assessment regarding your claim. To meet with a team member today, please call 732-440-3950 or fill out our online form today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your individual concerns.