New Jersey Tort Claims Act
In New Jersey, filing a personal injury claim is relatively easy if another person’s negligence leads to your injuries.
However, if the party responsible for your injuries is a government agency, employee, or contractor, filing a claim is slightly more complicated.
Under these circumstances, you will most likely need to file a claim which follows the requirements of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act.
What Is the NJ Tort Claims Act?
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act found at N.J.S.A59:2-2, is a law that requires an individual with a potential claim against a public entity or their employees to file such a claim within 90 days of the alleged incident.
In most cases, individuals cannot bring a claim against a government entity in New Jersey. However, N.J.S.A. §59:2-2 allows an exception for those injured due to the negligence of a government employee..
If a claim is not made within 90 days, the public entity will have immunity pertaining to any alleged injury claim.
In other words, failure to provide a Tort Claims Notice within the 90-day period, and failure to provide detailed information in that notice, can result in the absolute barring of recovery. This is why hiring a personal injury attorney experienced in tort claims is an absolute necessity if injured by a public entity.
What Does the NJ Tort Claims Act Cover?
Under N.J.S.A. §59:2-2, a government agency may be liable for any injuries an employee causes to another individual while on duty. An example of this is if the employee gets into a car accident while driving a government vehicle. The act also applies to any unsafe conditions caused by employees on government property opened to the public.
Unlike a standard personal injury claim, the NJ Tort Claims Act limits the amount of damages an individual may claim. For example, if you have insurance that covers the treatment of your injuries, that coverage amount may be deducted from your damages.
Another key part of the act is the limitations set on damages for pain and suffering. In order to receive pain and suffering damages, the injuries must cause permanent loss of a bodily function, disfigurement, or dismemberment. In addition, the medical treatment expenses for these conditions must exceed $3,600.
Even if you don’t meet this requirement, you may still seek damages for economic losses. This includes medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, and more.
Filing a Tort Claims Notice in New Jersey
To seek compensation, you must file a Tort Claims Notice with the government agency responsible for your injuries. Filing a Tort Claims Notice provides the government adequate time to investigate and draft a response.
Under N.J.S.A. §59:8-4, a Tort Claims Notice should include:
- The name and address of the claimant;
- The date, time, and location of the injury-causing incident;
- A general description of the injury, damage, or loss the claimant incurred;
- The names of any government employees who caused the injury, damage, or loss (if known); and
- The amount of the claim, including any estimated damages, as of the date of submission.
In New Jersey, any claims against the state must be submitted to the Bureau of Risk Management’s Tort and Contracts Unit. To fill out an Initial Notice of Claim form, you will need your full legal name, address, date of birth, and social security number. If you have received medical treatment or repairs to damaged property, details about your expenses must be included.
Exceptions to the 90-Day Notice Requirement
Although the Tort Claims Act was intended to be a middle ground for a claimant and a defendant, it often imposes a burden on an injured Plaintiff to act quickly in prosecuting their claims.
This burden is particularly evident in instances where a claimant may not be able to submit their claim within the 90-days 90 days allotted because of physical or mental incapacity or disability.
In cases like these, an exception is made for one (1) year if the claimant has demonstrated, pursuant to N.J.S.A59:8-9, that there were “extraordinary circumstances” which restricted their ability to submit their claim.
NJ Tort Claim Case Example
Alexandra Loprete, an associate with the firm, recently argued and won an appeal on a Plaintiff’s right to file a late notice of claim within one (1) year due to extraordinary circumstances. Ms. Loprete filed a Tort Claims Notice in a medical malpractice case against University Hospital located in Newark, New Jersey.
The Tort Claims Notice alleged that University Hospital and its employees failed to timely diagnose the Plaintiff’s postpartum infection. As a result, she developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection which required multiple surgeries and a long and complicated hospital course.
Ms. Loprete argued that Plaintiff’s life-threatening medical condition during the 90-day period to file a Tort Claims Notice rendered her physically incapacitated and amounted to exceptional and extraordinary circumstances. Based on the totality of the medical challenges Plaintiff faced during the 90-day period, Ms. Loprete sought a one (1) year extension to file the claim pursuant to N.J.S.A59:8-9.
Ms. Loprete’s efforts proved successful when the Appellate Division issued their opinion and found there existed “a perfect storm of factors totaling extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of N.J.S.A59:8-9.”
The attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble made the decision to pursue this case through the appellate level in order to obtain a just result and are very pleased that one was delivered by the Appellate Division.
Victims of medical malpractice are rarely in the physical or mental condition to make a claim against a public entity within 90 days. This case is the perfect example.
Speak to Our New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today
It is often difficult to know if your potential claim involves a public entity like a state or local government.
Many hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities may be public entities and require a claimant file a Tort Claims Notice within 90 days, or face having their claim forever barred.
If you or a loved one has suffered grave or permanent injury as a result of negligent care and you believe a public entity may be involved, contact the attorneys at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble.
Our medical malpractice lawyers can help gather all of the information you need to submit your claim and fight on your behalf.