If you suffer an injury on property owned by a public entity, or as the direct result of negligent actions of public employees, you have the right to file suit against the entity, under certain conditions. A “public entity” includes the State, and any county, municipality, district, public authority, public agency, and any other political subdivision or public body in the State.

Although State laws provide general immunity from liability for its agencies as well as for its employees, this protection is not limitless. There are some instances where a suit against the public agency and/or the employee(s) can be successful.

There are three ways a public entity can be held legally liable for an injury. They are:

Injuries caused by negligent actions of public employees acting within the scope of their employment. Examples include automobile accidents involving NJ Transit buses or trains, and accidents involving State, County or Municipality vehicles, negligence of a DYFS employee or government run facility such as a nursing home, group home or hospital.

Injuries caused by dangerous conditions of public property. You must be able to prove that the property owned by the government or its agencies was in a dangerous condition at the time of the incident; that your injury was the direct result of that condition; that the type of injury you suffered was reasonably foreseeable; that a negligent act of a public employee acting within the scope of his or her employment caused the dangerous condition, or that the public entity had actual or constructive notice of the condition in a reasonable amount of time to protect against it; and that the action or inaction of the public entity or public employee that resulted in the injury was “palpably unreasonable”, meaning it was blatant and outrageous. Examples include slip and falls on government owned property, such as office buildings, school grounds, or libraries, and injuries occurring on government owned roadways, parks, train stations and parking lots.

Injuries caused by the public entity or public employee’s failure to warn of an emergent dangerous condition of the street and highways of which it became aware. Example: an emergent dangerous condition on a roadway would occur if a traffic light malfunctioned in a way that was not readily apparent to the traveling public, for instance the light became twisted so that both crossroads had green lights at the same time. If the public entity responsible for the road became aware of the problem, failed to warn the public, and an accident occurred at the intersection, the accident victims would have viable claims.

It is important to act quickly after an injury occurs, since the law requires that a Notice of Claim be filed within ninety days of the date of incident. If extraordinary circumstances can be demonstrated, an extension of up to one year can be requested by the court. After the one-year period expires, the court has no discretion to allow a claim and the claimant is forever barred from recovery against the State or local public entity.

If you or a loved one have been injured on public property or through the negligent actions of public employees, it is important to consult a Personal Injury Lawyer. Many law firms, like ours, offer free consultations for personal injury clients. This free consultation will give you an opportunity to talk to an experienced Personal Injury Attorney who can help you decide whether to file a lawsuit.

Tracey C. Hinson is a Personal Injury Lawyer at the law firm of Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, P.C., 101 Grovers Mill Road, Suite 200, Lawrenceville. Contact Tracey by phone at 609-275-0400 or E-mail thinson@szaferman.com .

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