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What Is the Process of a Claim Against a Municipal Entity?

July 14, 2022

It is important to understand that in the State of New York there are different statues and rules that must be followed when you have a claim that involves a municipal entity rather then a private individual or company. There are certain time restraints that differ from other types of claims and certain filings that must be followed to make sure the claim is set up properly to proceed.  It is these differences which make it imperative for one to contact a lawyer immediately.   You want to make sure to properly preserve any rights you may have against a municipal entity.   The Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. has been helping injured victims throughout the County of Westchester and State of New York properly litigate against municipal entities.

What Is a Municipal Entity?

In basic terms a municipality is a governmental body.   The municipality is very often incorporated as a “municipal corporation”, but it does not necessarily need to be. The best way to simplify what is a municipal entity is to give examples.   The following list is not exhaustive and is just common examples of municipal entities.  It is important to contact a lawyer to make sure you know if your claim involves a municipal entity.  That being said that most common municipal entities are cities, towns, villages and many governmental service providers within those locals such as Police Department, Fire Department, Ambulance Services, Board of Education. Additionally, departments within towns, cities and villages are also part of the municipal entity.  Such as Department of Transportation, Roads, etc.   State of NY and Counties are also municipal entities but for the sake of simplicity this blog will not discuss them.   There are separate and other rules that need to be followed as to litigating against the State of NY and counties and those will not be discussed here. You should contact an attorney immediately if you have a matter against the State of NY or one of its counties.

The Differences in Litigating Again a Municipal Entity?

Although the stages of litigation are similar in cases not vs. a municipal entity there are certain statutes and rules that differ and must be followed.   First, if one has a claim against a municipal entity a document called a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident. The Notice of Claim basically is giving the municipal entity certain information as to where, when and how the incident occurred.  The prevailing logic behind this 90 day rule is to allow the municipal entity proper time to investigate the claim and not let the matter get stale.  Although you can make a motion to the court to allow you to file a late Notice of Claim these are very difficult to win and you need to prove that the municipal entity is not prejudiced and that you had a good excuse for not filing on time.   Usually, saying I did not contact a lawyer until after 90 days will not be a good enough excuse.   At the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. we have been successful in wining motions to file late notice of claims, but we are always honest with our prospective clients and explain that it always imperative to contact an attorney immediately in these matters so a notice of claim is filed timely to prevent any issues.

Second, in most cases dealing with private entities or individuals an injured party would not need to provide any testimony until the matter was in actual litigation.   This is not the case when a municipal entity is involved.   Based on New York Municipal Law Section 50-h, after the filing of a notice of claim a municipal entity has the right to hold a 50-h hearing and obtain the testimony from the injured party on the facts of the accident. Although it is not called a deposition it basically acts the same.   The injured party is asked questions by an attorney for the municipal entity with a court reporter present to take down everything said on the record in the hearing. If you hire an attorney prior to the hearing that attorney will be present with you at the hearing.  It is why it is so important to obtain counsel as soon as possible after you are injured due to the liability of a municipal entity.   At the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. we have helped clients throughout Ossining, Yonkers, Mt. Kisco and other part of the State of New York be prepared for their 50-h hearings.

The final main difference in a case against a municipal entity is your time to actually file a law suit.  The time to file your law suit is known as a Statute of Limitation.   Although it depends on the specific matter how long your Statute of Limitations run in most instances of a car accident or trip and fall where the defendants are private entities or individuals an injured party will have three years from the date of the accident to file their law suit (begin litigation), which is usually through the filing of a Summons and Complaint.   However, when the car accident or trip and fall involves a municipal entity the Statute of Limitations is only One Year and 90 days from the date of the accident.   Just like with the Notice of Claim, an injured party stating I did not know and did not contact an attorney till it was too late will likely not be an excuse.

Contact an Attorney as Soon as Possible

Because of these rules and time limits mentioned above it is vital for an person injured due to the negligence of a municipal entity to contact an attorney immediately.   As you can see certain rules need to be followed early on after the accident and those victims that our most successful in their cases are those who are represented early on in the process.   If you were injured and you believe it was the negligence of a municipal entity it is our advice that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.   Here, at the Law Offices of Spencer M. Fein, P.C. located in Briarclif Manor, NY in the county of Westchester we help those injured due to the negligence of municipal entities throughout the State of New York, including but not limited to those located in Ossining, Mt. Kisco, Yonkers, White Plains, Bronx and other areas.