Accidents involving public transportation can be catastrophic given the sheer number of potential victims that could be affected. For example, public bus crashes can harm far more individuals than the typical automobile accident. If you have sustained injuries in a crash involving a public transportation vehicle in the Hamilton Township area, you may have a valid claim against a government organization. What exactly does that process entail? Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect when filing a lawsuit against a public entity.
Although there are some rumors floating around out there that you are not permitted to file suit against the government no matter the situation, this is not true in cases involving public transportation incidents. In these circumstances, the state of New Jersey and local agencies almost always waive their immunity from civil action and thus can be found liable. This caveat can offer hope and support for victims of public transport accidents who may be facing staggering medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. That being said, there are nuanced and complex regulations applicable to claims filed against government entities that must be strictly adhered to in order to avoid getting your case dismissed altogether.
Understanding the Concept of Sovereign Immunity
Originally, pursuant to common law, governmental bodies were not subject to lawsuits initiated by private citizens. Back in medieval times, attempting to sue the king was far more likely to get you thrown in jail than to recover any damages he may have caused you. This government safeguard is often referred to in contemporary times as “sovereign immunity.”
The concept of sovereign immunity was adopted from the English by the early American legal system in most states, including New Jersey. The exemption remained on the books based on the reasoning that the government should be expending its limited resources on efficiently serving its constituents as opposed to constantly fighting off lawsuits.
However, New Jersey promulgated the Tort Claims Act in 1972, which altered the manner in which the government was treated in certain legal contexts. As a result of this legislation, modern-day government entities can face lawsuits for tort claims. A tort is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) that leads to civil legal liability.
The most commonly filed tort claims filed against the government are related to public transportation issues or highway and walkway upkeep. Pursuant to the Tort Claims Act, a private citizen can now directly sue a public entity if they sustain an injury while using a form of public transportation.
Time Caps on Public Transportation Claims
The state and local governments, as well as their affiliated public agencies, have collectively decided to permit civil suits to be filed against them when the claim pertains to certain aspects of the law. However, this governmental waiver of immunity is significantly limited when it comes to the amount of time you have to formally file your claim.
This limitation is also known as the “statute of limitations.” In private civil actions in New Jersey, the plaintiff generally has two years from the date of the given accident to initiate legal proceedings. If you fail to file your case within that window of time, then the court will dismiss your case and bar you from bringing the suit again in the future.
The statute of limitations that applies to governmental suits, however, has drastically truncated deadlines for when you are required to initiate the claim. The Tort Claims Act mandates that private citizens must first provide the government entity they are suing with formal written notice of a claim within 90 days of the accident’s occurrence. If you fail to provide this notice in a timely manner, the judge may permanently bar your claim.
Suing the Government? You Need an Experienced Attorney
Filing a claim against a public entity, such as a local government, a government agency, or transportation authority, is much different than filing a claim against a person or company. It is especially important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney about your claim if you believe the at-fault party was a government organization or agency.
Due to the extremely short notice period applicable to governmental personal injury claims, it is essential that you take legal action quickly in order to maximize your chances of successfully litigating your case. In addition, in order to make a recovery for pain and suffering against a public entity, you must have a certain type of injury. The law requires you to have a permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement, or dismemberment where the medical treatment expenses are in excess of $3,600. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your claim and determine your entitlement.
When you need legal representation, it is important to Select Excellence. Skill, experience, and reputation make all the difference. With exceptional legal credentials and experience, the attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo handle claims throughout New Jersey, and are dedicated to providing the highest quality of legal service available. The firm’s lawyers and staff share a passion for winning, and have an uncompromised commitment to every client we represent.
At Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, we take personal injury personally. Our personal injury lawyers have been recognized locally and statewide for their legal excellence in this dynamic practice area and can assist you in holding the government accountable when it comes to public transportation injuries.
In addition to claims against public entities, the personal injury attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo can help with many other types of claims, including automobile and motorcycle accidents, boat accidents, construction litigation, premises liability, slips and falls, wrongful death, and many other types of serious personal injury claims.
Our hard working attorneys are ready and willing to work hard helping you resolve your Hamilton Township case today. Contact Susan Petro, Rich Gaeckle, or Mike Veneziani for information about claims against public entities or your personal injury case. For your convenience, we have four offices in southern New Jersey, including Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, as well as our Hamilton (Trenton) area office, that are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM until 5:30 PM. Call us now at 888-675-7607 or visit PetroCohen.com to Live Chat with one of our representatives.