Bringing a claim for injuries against New Jersey Transit (NJTransit) is not as simple as it may seem due to the fact that they are a “public entity” under New Jersey’s stringent Tort Claim Act. See N.J.S.A. 59:1-3.
As a governmental entity, NJTransit is permitted certain immunities under tort law which protect the agency against claims of negligence. These immunities are broad and are often strictly interpreted by the courts.
The most urgent difference in a public entity claim is the requirement that a claimant file a Title 59 “Notice of Claim” form. See N.J.S.A. 59:8-8. This form is not the actual filing of a Complaint (i.e. lawsuit), but rather simply putting the agency on notice of a potential claim.
A “TCA Notice” must be submitted to every potentially responsible public agency no later than ninety (90) days after the occurrence of the injury. Therefore, even if contemplating a claim while undergoing initial treatment, it is prudent to have the notice filed on time. Filing a notice does not obligate one to ultimately file a lawsuit, it merely gives the public entity time to investigate the claim while in close proximity to the injury itself. Under certain circumstances, a claim may also be amended as more information is ascertained during treatment.
As there are specific pieces of information that are required for such a Notice, great care must be taken in completing the paperwork. Generally, it’s preferable to have the Notice reviewed by an experienced attorney prior to submission to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements. Failure to comply can result in an otherwise valid claim being dismissed for procedural insufficiencies.
Further, there is an injury limitation immunity within the law, meaning that the public agency can only be held liable for injuries that are of a certain severity. Title 59 is specific in stating that damages (monetary awards) can only be given for pain and suffering if there is a “permanent loss of a bodily function,” “disfigurement,” or “dismemberment.” See N.J.S.A. 59:9-2. As this limitation is subjective and based upon medical opinions, it is important that there is ample medical documentation to support such a claim.
There are many other differences between a claim against NJTransit as compared to a private transit company—too many to list here. In fact, the leading annual publication which briefly summarizes Claims Against Public Entities is over 600 pages long! Therefore, it’s important that you consider your rights and the potential pitfalls of a claim before beginning the process.
At Levinson Axelrod, we have an experienced team of over 20 trial attorneys. As we only specialize in personal injury claims occurring in New Jersey, we have a unique specialty in handling complex Tort Claim Act cases. If you or a loved one has been injured by way of the negligence of NJTransit, or any other public entity, please contact our office for a FREE consultation.