When we were young we learned in history that the kings of Europe used to believe that they had immunity from any claims that their subjects wanted to bring against them. This was based on the concept of the Divine Right of Kings, which held that the power of a king came from God above.
Today, we no longer hold kings or queens in such high regard. However, there are still some last remnants of sovereign immunity that exists today. In New Jersey, it is called Title 59, the Tort Claims Act. Like sovereign immunity of old, this state statute dictates the circumstances and outlines the procedures under which the State of New Jersey, and all other county and local governmental entities and individuals, will consent to be sued in court for personal injuries.
Before you can sue for wrongful death or personal injuries in the State of New Jersey or any country or municipal entity or employee, you must file a Notice of Tort Claim. A Notice of Tort Claim can be in the form of a letter and it must provide the following information:
- List the name and address of the injured person.
- List the address that the injured party wants the governmental entity or employee to send letters and notices to.
- List the date, location and describe the circumstances of the incident where the injured person received his or her injury.
- Provide a general description of the injury, damage or loss that the injured person is suffering with. If details are uncertain at the present time, then give them all of the details of the injury, damage or loss that you know about at the time that you mail out the Notice of Tort Claim.
- Provide the name or names of the public entity, employee or employees who caused the injury, damage or loss, if the injured person knows this information.
- Provide the amount of money that the injured person is claiming that he or she is owned as of the date of presentation of the Notice of Tort Claim. Include in this amount, your very best estimate of the amount of money as to the value of any future injury, damage, or loss that was caused by the governmental entity or employee. Finally, provide the factors that you used as the basis of computation of the amount of money claimed for the present and future injury, damage or loss.
Unlike all other personal injury lawsuits where you have two years to file a lawsuit, when you are suing the state, you must act much more quickly. You must file the Notice of Tort Claim within ninety (90) days from the day that you learned that you have a potential claim for wrongful death or personal injury against the governmental entity and/or employee. You then have to wait for six (6) months from the date that you mailed the Notice of Tort Claim before you can file a lawsuit in the appropriate court of law.
Failure to follow the above procedure precisely will likely result in your claim being dismissed and preclude you from ever receiving compensation for your personal injuries. Another potentially dangerous pitfall is where you are not sure if the entity that caused you personal injuries is part of the government or not. Examples that reflect this ambiguity include the following businesses: hospitals, utilities and transportation companies. A seasoned personal injury attorney can easily and promptly deal with all of the hurdles that the Tort Claims Act places in front of you.