When you’ve been hurt in any kind of accident, the first thing you want to do, after you’ve received the medical care you need, is determine how the accident happened and who caused it. If the accident was caused by another party’s carelessness or negligence, you have a right to take legal action to hold that party accountable for any losses you have suffered. But what if the cause of the accident was a poorly maintained roadway? What if you lost control of your motorcycle because of a pothole, loose gravel on the road, or some other roadway defect? Can you still sue?
In New Jersey, as in most states, the process for recovering compensation from a governmental body after an accident is different than getting damages from a private party. That’s because New Jersey has a statute that grants governmental bodies “immunity” from certain types of claims. Fortunately, it’s not a blanket immunity, but includes exceptions that allow for the recovery of compensation in specific instances.
Under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, which sets forth the terms of governmental tort immunity, as well as the exceptions, an injured person can sue a public entity for personal injury if a governmental employee causes injury “within the scope of his employment in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” In essence, if you could sue the at-fault party if he or she were a private citizen, you can bring a lawsuit against a municipality (including the state of New Jersey).
Specific examples of instances where the actions of a governmental worker will allow a claim under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act include when injuries are caused by a dangerous property condition on governmental property. However, to bring legal action, you must show that the governmental body was notified of the dangerous condition but failed to fix it or reasonably warn drivers.
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