A personal injury lawsuit enables you to sue a government or corporation when their negligence harms you in some way. For example, you can sue a negligent driver for causing a car accident. Similarly, if that driver was acting on behalf of their employer at the time of the crash, that employer can also be sued under the legal principle of vicarious liability.
But what happens when the party that injures you is someone who works for the government? Say you are injured in a car accident caused by an employee of the City of Glens Falls. Can you actually sue the city and collect damages?
The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is a bit more complicated. Essentially, it is possible under New York law to file a personal injury claim against a municipal corporation. But you have to follow a special set of rules in order to do so.
First, it is important to understand another legal principle known as sovereign immunity. This is a legal principle derived from English common law. It basically provides that the King cannot be sued in his own courts without his consent. In the modern U.S. form, sovereign immunity means that you cannot sue the State of New York–or any of its subdivisions, such as a county or city–unless the legislature has expressly granted permission to do so.
All states, including New York, have waived sovereign immunity with respect to personal injury claims arising from the negligence of government employees. But it is not as simple as just filing a lawsuit. In order to take advantage of the state’s waiver of sovereign immunity, certain rules need to be strictly followed.
Notice of Claim
Notably, before filing a lawsuit, a victim must first file a “Notice of Claim” with the government entity involved. So if you were injured in a car accident caused by a city employee, you would file a Notice of Claim with the City of Glens Falls. This notice must contain certain basic information, including your name and address, when and where the accident happened, your specific injuries, et cetera.
One key aspect of the Notice of Claim is that it needs to be filed relatively soon after an accident occurs. In most personal injury cases there is a three-year statute of limitations. That is, you have three years from the date of accident to file a formal lawsuit against the defendant. But a Notice of Claim needs to be filed with a municipality no later than 90 days after an accident.
The stated reason for this quick Notice of Claim procedure is to give the city time to conduct its own investigation into the accident and determine whether to offer a settlement. During this time, the city can demand a physical and/or oral examination of the claimant. An “oral examination” in this context means that the city can require the victim to sit for a deposition and answer questions under oath about their claim.
If the victim refuses to sit for either the physical or oral examination, they forfeit the right to subsequently file a lawsuit. New York courts are quite strict about enforcing this rule. Just recently, the Appellate Division, Second Department, dismissed a personal injury lawsuit on Long Island for this very reason. In that case, A.R. v. Urrutia, a minor was struck by a car while crossing the street near a public high school. The child’s mother served a Notice of Claim against Suffolk County but did not answer a demand for oral examination. The Second Department held the trial court was correct to dismiss the mother’s lawsuit against the County due to this lack of compliance.
Contact a Glens Falls Personal Injury Lawyer Today
Even after filing a proper Notice of Claim, New York law further restricts the time to file a lawsuit against a city or county to just one year following an accident. Again, this is substantially lower than the standard for suing an individual or private corporation, where a three-year statute of limitations applies.
So if you, or someone in your family, has been seriously injured in an accident and you have reason to believe a local government employee was at-fault, it is essential that you take prompt action to preserve your ability to seek compensation under the law. Our experiencedGlens Falls personal injury attorneys can review your case and advise you on the best course of action. Contact Larson & Gallivan Law today at 518-862-8799 to schedule a free initial consultation.