Do public agencies have immunity from personal injury claims?
We have previously supplied you with some insight on charitable organizations and immunity for personal injury claims. For example, there are limitations on whether or not you can pursue an action for an accident on church property. There are also conditions that must be met for injuries that occur on government grounds or against government employees. Is it the same standard? Do public agencies have immunity from claims?
Tort Claim Notices
Before we begin to examine the issue of immunity, it is necessary to stress the importance of filing tort claim notices in a timely manner. If you think you may have a claim against a governmental agency, seek out legal advice IMMEDIATELY. We previously addressed the necessity for filing this notice here. Even if your claim is ultimately deemed ineligible, it is critical that your notice is filed on time.
Public Agencies and Immunity
According to the State of New Jersey’s Division of Risk Management, the State of New Jersey does not carry liability insurance and is self-insured for claims made against it. This is the case for most public agencies. Ultimately, the taxpayers contribute to funding liability claims. They do this in accordance with the New Jersey Tort Claim Act, also known as Title 59.
Chapter Two of Title 59 specifically deals with public entities and immunity. For example, there is statutory language that “a public entity is not liable for injury caused by its failure to make an inspection, or by reason of making an inadequate or negligent inspection of any property.” Notwithstanding, the public entity is not exonerated from liability for negligence during the course of the inspection or for failure to protect against a dangerous condition. Another section of the law deals with the requirement for police protection.
Claims against public employees are also considered in this same part of the law. If a public entity is granted immunity, so is its employee.
New Case Examines Immunity
You may not realize it, but New Jersey Transit falls under the category of public entities. Again, we stress the need for a Tort Claim Notice for claims against them. However, a new case is challenging whether New Jersey Transit is entitled to this same immunity as a public agency.
The matter involves a woman who was victimized by other passengers, while travelling on a New Jersey Transit bus. The bus driver did not stop the bus and the woman’s attorney argued that the intervention could have stopped or lessened his client’s injuries.
The complaint against New Jersey Transit and its driver was dismissed. However, the Appellate Court found that although New Jersey Transit is a government agency, it has another role. As a common carrier, it is subject to liability. The case is back for consideration of damages.