WHAT IF YOUR INJURY IS CAUSED BY THE CITY, COUNTY OR STATE
TORT CLAIM NOTICE
If you are involved in an accident in which you believe a public entity was involved, the Tort Claims Act requires that a claim against the public entity must be filed within 90 days of the injury. In two recently decided cases, Cray v. City of Elizabeth and Mueller v. State, the Court granted the summary judgment motion filed by N.J. Transit and the State, respectively, because the plainitffs failed to comply with the 90-day notice requirement. In fact, in Mueller, the Court specifically held that plaintiff's ignorance of the was no excuse, nor was the plaintiff's reliance on employees of the State to file her claim.
In historic times, under the concept of sovereign immunity, you were not permitted to sue the king even for acts of intentional acts committed by the ruler. As the law developed, and as the concept of sovereign immunity was rejected, laws were drafted that permitted, under specific circumstances, an injured party to sue the sovereign or ruler of the land.
In New Jersey, you are permitted to sue a public entity (i.e. the state, county or municipality) as long as you comply with the provisions of the Tort Claims Act. In any action in which you believe a public entity is responsible for causing damages or injuries to you, the public entity must receive notice of the event causing your injury within 90 days of that event. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident and you believe the public entity is liable, in whole or part, for that accident, you must notify the public entity within 90 days of that accident. Under certain circumstances, the Court has discretion to permit a late filing of this notice, however, as in Mueller, ignorance of the notice requirement is not a sufficient reason for the Court to permit a late filing of the notice. If a you fail to file a notice within the 90 days, and if the Court refuses to permit a late filing of the notice, you will be forever barred from filing a claim against the public entity.
In addition, New Jersey has provided that the Tort Claims Notice must provide sufficient information to permit the public entity to perform an investigation into the claim. The Notice must included the name and address of the claimant; the date, place and other information that will assist the public entity in its investigation of the incident; a description of the injuries or damages caused by the incident; the name of the entity believed to have caused the incident; and the amount of damages and perspective damages. A notice must be sent to every public entity believed to have caused or contributed to the accident.
Compliance with the Tort Claims Act is not difficult, but it is imperative that the requirements of the Act be followed or you may be barred from filing a claim against a public entity. If you believe a public entity may be responsible for an accident in which you are involved, speak to an attorney to learn what must be done in your situation.