Here are some FAQ on how to sue the government for personal injury. The questions focus on the deadlines involved.
Q. Is there a deadline to sue the government for personal injury?
A. Yes. A key aspect of knowing how to sue the government is knowing the deadline.
Q. What is a “personal injury statute of limitations”?
A. A “statute of limitations” is the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit or lose your right to sue. There are different deadlines for different types of cases. A “personal injury” case is one where the victim suffers a physical or psychological injury, as opposed to just a loss of money, reputation or property. Car accident, slip and fall, medical malpractice and dog bite injuries are all examples of personal injury.
Q. How long is the NJ personal injury statute of limitations?
A. Generally, for a victim who is over 18 years of age at the time of the accident, the deadline to file a lawsuit is TWO YEARS from the date of the incident. This deadline applies to most personal injury cases, whether or not a government entity or government employee caused the injury. However, if a government entity or employee (on-the-job) injured you, you have an additional deadline of 90 DAYS from the accident date to also file what is called a “notice of tort claim.”
Q. What is a “notice of tort claim”?
A. A form that you must complete and file if a New Jersey government entity or employee (on-the-job) injures you. You generally must file the form with the entity within 90 DAYS from the date of the accident. After that, the two-year deadline to file a lawsuit still applies. If you miss the 90-day deadline, you lose your right to sue the government entity and any responsible employee. Note that you can’t file a lawsuit until six months expire after you file your notice of tort claim.
Q. What do you mean by a “government entity”?
A. The state of New Jersey, or any county, municipality, school board, public housing authority, or police department. Also, New Jersey Transit, or any state, county, or local government agency or department, etc., located in New Jersey. If in doubt, file a notice of tort claim on time. There is no penalty for an unnecessary filing of a tort claim notice.
Q. Can I extend the 90-day deadline to file a tort claim notice?
A. Possibly, but don’t count on it. While you can file a court motion to extend the 90-day deadline, such motions are not usually granted. Therefore, you should always try to file your tort claim notice within the 90-day deadline. The longest that you can request the deadline be extended is nine months. For example, you can extend the deadline to one year instead of 90 days. To get the extension, you must prove that extraordinary circumstances prevented you from filing on time.
Q. Tell me how to sue the government of the United States?
A. There is a different procedure if a federal government agency or employee injures you. Still, there are some similarities to the process of suing a New Jersey government entity. For example, there is a requirement that a claim notice be filed with the appropriate federal agency. There is also a two-year time deadline. However, that deadline is a time limit on filing a claim notice, not a lawsuit. After you file your claim notice, the agency in question will either accept, deny or fail to respond to your claim. If the agency denies your claim or fails to respond, only then can you file a lawsuit in federal court. The amount of compensation that you can get is limited to the amount that you asked for in the claim notice.
If the agency denies your claim, you have six months from the date that the agency mailed the denial to you to file your lawsuit. Thus, the deadline to sue can be much shorter than the two-year statute of limitations applicable when you sue a New Jersey government entity. On the other hand, no deadline to sue comes into play until the federal agency denies your claim. If the agency fails to respond to your claim, you are allowed (but not required) to file a lawsuit after six months from when you filed the claim.
Q. Is there a special form I need to use to file a claim notice?
A. Yes. For cases involving a New Jersey governmental entity, the form varies, depending on which entity is responsible. Each entity can design its own form. There is also a general form you can use if the entity in question has not issued its own. In federal cases, you can use Standard Form 95 to file a claim against most federal agencies.
Q. So these FAQ tell me all the deadlines in my case, correct?
A. Not necessarily. It’s impossible to cover every type of case in a brief article on how to sue the government. There are some cases and government entities that have unique rules. These FAQ only cover the most common cases. Less common cases involve, for example, victims under 18. Or people who justifiably do not realize immediately that someone’s negligence was responsible for their injury. Such victims are often granted a longer period to sue or file a notice of claim.
Another exception would be a case against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Port Authority cases have a ONE-YEAR statute of limitations. Moreover, the victim must file a claim notice at least 60 days before filing the lawsuit.
Here’s the bottom line: Knowing how to sue the government on time is complicated. You should never assume that any deadline has expired, or has not expired unless you receive a legal opinion from a qualified personal injury lawyer to that effect. There may be exceptions that you aren’t aware of. Your best bet is to contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney right away after any accident.