Title 59, known as the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, is the controlling authority for how to proceed in an action for personal injury against a public entity. If you were injured on public property or by a public entity or public employee, you MUST file a Notice of Tort Claim against that entity.
A Notice of Tort Claim is simply a form that either the injured party or his representative can fill out. It asks for basic information that includes, but is not limited to: name, address, date, time and place of the accident, what public entity is responsible, how the accident occurred, the amount of property damage, where you’ve received medical treatment. Each public entity may have its own form, however, the information it requests is fairly uniform. (Tort Claim Notice against the State of New Jersey)
The Notice of Tort Claim form must be filled out and served (by certified mail or hand delivery) to the public entity by the 90th day after the accident occurred. Please note, this is not the same as filing a lawsuit. Rather, the form alerts the public entity of the incident and gives them time to conduct an investigation and decide if it would like to settle the matter with the claimant before the claimant files a lawsuit. Per Title 59, a claimant must wait six months after the filing of the Notice of Tort Claim before being permitted to file a lawsuit against the public entity.
A late notice of claim must be filed within one year of the date of the accident. The state legislature amended the statute to its present day in an effort to raise the standard for allowing a late notice of claim filing. A key factor in determining whether extraordinary circumstances justifies a late notice filing is whether an injured party promptly seeks out legal counsel to investigate their case. Mendez v. Siazon, 208 N.J. 463 (2011).
Even if you are not sure about whether or not you have a case or want to pursue a case against the public entity, it is important to get the Notice of Tort Claim filed. If it is not filed within 90 days after the accident, you are forever barred from filing a lawsuit against the public entity unless a judge permits a late filing. There are exceptions for filing a late Notice of Claim, but a judge has to allow that to happen and they are very limited circumstances.
If you were injured due to the negligence of a public entity or public employee, or due to the dangerous condition of public property, contact a lawyer immediately for help in filing a Notice of Tort Claim. If you do not do so, you could be losing your right to a lawsuit and compensation for those injuries.