Both federal and state laws protect against actions of state and federal agents that would deprive you of your constitutional rights or cause personal injuries. Making a claim against a federal or state public entity can be a very complicated legal process that requires strict adherence to the laws and procedures set forth in a number of state and federal statutes. Along with determining if the defendant is, in fact, a public entity, you must decide where to file your claim and you must provide the proper notice to preserve your rights.
If you believe that a federal or state public entity has violated your rights or injured you, contact the New York and New Jersey personal injury lawyers at the Ginarte law firm today. You can reach us at 888-GINARTE (446-2783) or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What Is A Claim Against a Public Entity?
At the federal level, the United States Constitution provides the framework for our rights and liberties. Even though no one has the legal right to violate your rights as set forth in the Constitution, violations do occur. Claims for a violation of the U.S. Constitution and certain statutory violations are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. When the person or entity that has violated your rights is considered a “public entity,” the procedures for pursuing a claim for the violation become more complicated.
In theory, if a government entity or an individual working in his or her capacity as an agent for the government violates one of your constitutional rights, then you have the right to sue for damages. People often have the misperception that private individuals can violate their constitutional rights, when in fact that is typically not the case. A constitutional rights violation lawsuit can usually be brought only against a public actor.
Exactly what constitutes a “public entity” can become confusing. One of the most common examples of a public entity is a law enforcement agency. A police officer, acting in his or her role as a law enforcement officer, can be sued for a violation of your constitutional rights. In fact, claims against a police officer or police department for excessive force or unreasonable search and seizure are some of the most common types of § 1983 claims. Additional examples of common § 1983 claims include:
- Violations of First Amendment rights in whistleblower cases where the individual who speaks out experiences retaliation.
- Equal protection claims.
- Wrongful conviction claims.
- State-created danger claims.
New Jersey and New York Law
In addition to your right to file a claim against a public entity under federal law, you may also have a claim based on New Jersey or New York law.
The New Jersey Tort Claims Act (NJTCA), N.J. Stat. Ann § 59:1-1 et seq., applies to tort or personal injury actions against public entities or their employees. The term “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. N.J.S.A. 59:1-3. In the State of New York, the law is essentially the same with regard to who qualifies as a public entity.
Notice Provisions in Claims against Public Entities
One of the most important distinctions between filing a lawsuit against a private citizen or business and filing one against a public entity is found in the notice requirements. When the defendant is a private citizen or business, the statute of limitations applicable to the type of injury dictates when any official legal action must be commenced in order to preserve the claim. When the defendant is a public entity, however, there are “notice requirements” that apply.
A potential plaintiff or someone who has been injured must notify the proper authority of the injury within the time frame required under the notice requirement or the right to proceed against the defendant may be lost forever. An actual lawsuit may not be filed for months or even years later, but the initial notice must be timely filed in order to preserve your right to file the lawsuit in the future.
Under both the New Jersey TCA and New York’s General Municipal Law § 50-e, a victim must notify the proper authority within 90 days of the accrual of the claim. Failure to provide the proper notice is an absolute bar to recovery for damages against the defendant. The format of the notice, the information required in the notice, and to whom the notice must be delivered will depend on the type of claim and who the defendant is.
Contact the NY/NJ Claims against Public Entities Attorneys at the Ginarte Law Firm Today
If you believe that a public agency, public employee or public authority has violated your rights or caused an injury, you may have a valid claim against a public entity. Filing a lawsuit against a public entity is a very complicated undertaking and one that should be embarked upon only with the assistance of an experienced attorney in the area of claims against public entities.
Contact the experienced legal team at Ginarte, O’Dwyer, Gonzalez, Gallardo, Verchick & Winograd, L.L.P., to find out what legal options you may have. Call the firm today at 888-GINARTE (446-2783) for your free consultation, or fill out our online contact form.