If you were injured by a slip and fall on government property, it can be challenging to recover compensation. Federal, state, and local laws generally protect government entities and agencies from being held liable for injuries and damages that occur on government property. Nevertheless, there are some circumstances where you can hold the government liable for your injuries and associated damages. To do so, the facts of your case must fall within a few narrow exceptions to the government’s general immunity protection. You must also prove the actions or inactions by the government were palpably unreasonable. This is more than just mere carelessness.
If your unique circumstances allow you to file a claim, you must then contend with strict notice and filing deadlines to ensure you do not waive your right to file a claim. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney in NJ can help put your mind at ease. Below, we provide an overview of the claims process against government entities. Contact Petro Cohen if you would like to discuss your situation with one of our attorneys.
It is critical for you to act quickly after you are injured on government property. Before you can file a lawsuit against a government entity or agency, you must first submit a formal notice of claim. This notice may also be called an administrative notice. The federal government and most states have rigid guidelines that you must abide by to file a slip-and-fall claim against a government entity. New Jersey laws allow a notice of claim against the state to be filed up to 90 days after the date the injury occurred. But other government entities may impose other deadlines.
The State of New Jersey requires every notice to contain the information below. Other federal and local jurisdictions require you to include similar information in a notice of claim.
- Your name and mailing address;
- Mailing address for notices (this would be your attorney’s address);
- The date and location where you were injured;
- A description of the circumstances and conditions that existed the day you were injured;
- As much information as you know about your injury and healing process;
- A detailed list of medical expenses and other losses; and
- Name of the government entity that owns the property where the injury occurred.
While the exact procedure may vary based on jurisdiction, the notice of claim is the first, most critical step that you must complete to recover compensation for a slip and fall on government property. All government entities require you to provide sufficient and timely notice of your claim to allow them adequate time to either formally challenge the claim or take no action on it. For claims filed against the State of New Jersey, you can file a lawsuit in the appropriate court six months after the State receives the notice of claim.
The correct filing location depends on the government property where you were injured. A Notice of Claim against the State of New Jersey can be filed with the state attorney general or the specific department or agency where you were injured.
The correct filing locations will be different if the notice of claim must be filed with a local or federal government entity. Given the strict timeline to file a claim, it is advantageous to speak with an experienced attorney to ensure you file your notice of claim with the correct government office.
A claimant must meet strict timelines to file a notice of claim or lawsuit against the government. Failure to file your notice of claim or lawsuit within these set time periods means you forfeit your rights to file a claim against the government. There are three ways you may lose your rights to sue for damages:
- Not filing the notice of claim by the specified date,
- Not commencing a lawsuit within two years from the date of the injury, and
- Agreeing to a settlement that waives your right to damages.
The filing deadlines above do not apply to a minor who was injured on government property. New Jersey allows minors to file a notice of claim within 90 days after their 18th birthday. If a person lacked mental capacity when they were injured, state laws also allow them to file a notice of claim 90 days after they regain their mental capacity.
Aside from the complex procedural hurdles claimants must jump through to successfully recover damages from the government from a basic premises liability perspective, similar to a private entity or business, the government entity is only responsible for slip-and-fall injuries in the following three scenarios.
- The government entity or employee directly caused the unsafe condition;
- The government entity or employee was aware of the unsafe condition yet failed to take reasonable action to resolve it; or
- The government entity or employee should have known of the unsafe condition because a reasonable person would have learned of it and repaired or removed it.
As the injured party, you, the private citizen, bear the burden of proof in slip-and-fall cases filed against a government entity or employee. This means that you must prove that your injuries were directly correlated to the government’s alleged actions or inactions. To strengthen your claim, you should preserve evidence of the incident. Suggestions would be taking pictures of your injuries and the scene of the incident, reporting the incident to the relevant government entity immediately, and obtaining the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
There are often significant limitations on the total damages amount recoverable from a government entity. Again, the limits will vary based on the specific municipality you are suing. But keep in mind that they could potentially have a significant effect on what you can recoup from your losses. For example, you cannot collect pre-judgment interest on a claim against a government entity as you would if you were suing a private party. Additionally, there are typically statutes that prohibit claimants from recovering different types of damages from the government. Typically, you can recover “specific damages,” which are objective, quantifiable expenses, including medical fees, rehabilitation costs, and lost salary. However, governmental entities are generally immune from paying “general damages,” which are subjective, unquantifiable expenses, including pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment. In order to recover for such claims the injury must amount to a permanent loss of bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment.
Successfully litigating a slip-and-fall claim against either a federal or state government entity is inherently more complicated than personal injury lawsuits against private parties. There are multiple deadlines, strict and complex procedural requirements, and a high evidentiary standard that needs to be met for you to obtain a damage award. It is essential that you have a skilled personal injury attorney in your corner who is familiar with governmental litigation. And you want that attorney to be involved at the earliest stage of your case as possible to provide you with insightful legal advice and help craft an effective trial strategy. This is exactly what you will find when you contact Petro Cohen, P.C.
Our personal injury attorneys can answer your questions concerning a potential personal injury lawsuit and help you decide the best path for you. We take the time to listen to your story, review all your options and potential case scenarios, and help you make an informed decision on how to proceed. You can rest assured that our attorneys will work hard on your behalf to obtain settlements for lost wages and medical expenses to help bring you closure.
With over one hundred years of combined legal experience, Petro Cohen’s attorneys, Barry Cohen, Susan Petro, Rich Gaeckle, and Michael Veneziani will handle your personal injury case passionately, fighting for the full and fair compensation that you rightly deserve. They have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases for clients throughout Southern New Jersey. Additionally, the Petro Cohen law firm was named to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Best Law Firms in America® list in New Jersey for Personal Injury in 2017.
For more information or a free consultation with one of our attorneys at any of our four office locations (Hamilton Township, Northfield, Cherry Hill, and Cape May Court House, NJ), call or contact us online.
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