In New Jersey, claims for damages against public entities and public employees are subject to the provisions of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) at N.J.S.A. 59:1-1, et seq.
Under the TCA, claimants must file what is called a "notice of claim" against a public entity or public employee within 90 days of the accrual of the cause of action in order to preserve the ability to initiate later litigation. Six months after the notice of claim is filed, the claimant may then file formal suit in a court of law. This statutory scheme is designed to provide the public entity adequate time to evaluate, and possibly settle, claims prior to formal litigation.
Under normal circumstances, a person who fails to file a timely notice of claim is barred from bringing a future lawsuit against a public entity or employee. There is, however, an exception to the general rule. In this regard, a claimant who fails to file a notice of claim within the initial 90 day window may, in the discretion of a Superior Court judge, file a notice of claim within 1 year of the accrual of the claim, provided that: (i) the public entity or its employee will not be substantially prejudiced by the late filing of the notice of claim; and (2) the late notice of claim was caused by extraordinary circumstances.
In sum, if you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligent or reckless conduct of a pubic entity or public employee, you should act quickly to preserve the right to bring a future lawsuit, or you may lose the ability to do so. An experienced tort claims lawyer can explain your rights and guide you through the claims and litigation process, so don't wait.