SUING THE CITY FOR PERSONAL INJURY REQUIRES PROMPT ACTION
Continued from my last post.) Guirguis Matta was suing the city of Jersey City for his injuries suffered in an elevator accident. His lawyers didn’t notify Jersey City of their intent to sue within 90 days of the accident. The law requires such notification when suing the city. Or any other government entity.
Matta’s lawyers requested from the trial court judge permission to file a late notice of claim against Jersey City. They argued that they were not reasonably aware of the potential responsibility of the government until the other attorney disclosed that fact to them. The trial judge agreed and allowed Matta’s lawyers to file a late notice of claim. The law allows a late notice of claim to be filed up to one year after an accident, in extraordinary circumstances.
But Jersey City appealed. The appeals court reversed the decision of the trial judge. The appeals judges noted that an injury victim has a duty to use reasonable diligence in discovering potentially responsible parties within 90 days from the accident. In Matta’s case, the report issued by the PI his lawyers hired disclosed the fire department’s response to the elevator accident. That report was issued a week before the 90-day deadline.
Unless Matta’s attorneys can successfully appeal the case to the New Jersey Supreme Court, Matta will not be suing the city for his injuries.
I disagree with the appeals court decision. Suing the city should not require a crystal ball. Just because Matta’s lawyers knew that the city responded to the scene a day before the accident does not mean that they should have known immediately that the city likely was responsible for Matta’s injuries.
The Lesson of This Case
That said, this case demonstrates the importance of immediately hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer if you’ve had an accident. If it turns out that you’ll be suing the city or other governmental division, there is not much time to take action.
There are those who complain that attorneys file too many frivolous claims. Unfortunately, court decisions like this one force attorneys to file first and ask questions later. Suing the city should not be so difficult.