Suing a Private Individual or Corporation
If an accident occurs in a private building or on a private piece of property and there’s no municipal involvement, the statute for negligence in New York State is three (3) years.
And that’s measured from the date of the accident. This means that you must file a lawsuit three years from the date of the accident.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you have three years to claim an injury from the date of the accident. All of these cases are dependent upon medical proof, so if you haven’t seen a doctor for 8 months regarding a back or knee injury you claim is from a fall, this three year window won’t really help you. This is because that long delay in treatment will make it difficult to prove that your injuries are actually related to the fall.
Suing a Municipal Government
Now, when you have a potential claim against a municipal defendant, meaning a government entity such as the City of New York, the New York City Transit Authority, the New York City Housing Authority or some other town, county or village outside of the City of New York, the statute is shorter. You must file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of your accident and start a lawsuit within 1 year and 90 days.
State and local governments used to have something called Sovereign Immunity, which meant that you were not allowed to sue them for torts such as negligence. That is no longer the case, as they have waived this immunity, but we have to jump through certain hoops in order to do it. And one of those things is filing a Notice of Claim within 90 days.
Filing a Notice of Claim
In any scenario where your slip and fall or a trip and fall case is against the City of New York or one of these other government entities being a defendant or a county or a town outside of the City of New York, you have 90 days in which to file a document called a Notice of Claim. This is a verified document that must be served a very specific way upon the municipal entity, the government entity, within 90 days of accident.
This Notice of Claim needs to lay out the time when the accident happened, the way it happened, and what you are claiming that the municipality did wrong. It is certainly recommended that an attorney complete this step for you as there are pitfalls at every step, including who to name, where to serve it, how to serve it and what it should state.
Once you file this Notice of Claim, you have saved your right to sue. But that is not the only hoop that you must jump through. To help facilitate their “investigation,” the government is allowed to question you at an examination known as a “50-h Hearing.”
Let’s assume that a Notice of Claim was filed on time. Now you have 1 year and 90 days in which to bring a lawsuit.
Suing Public Authorities
Certain Public Authorities, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the NYC School Construction Authority and others have a shorter statute of limitations. With these entities there is a 60 day Notice of Claim window and anylawsuit must be filed within 1 year of the accident.
Other Public Authorities like the MTA Long Island Railroad or the MTA are entitled to a Notice of Claim at least 30 days prior to the commencement of suit, while the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the incident.
Suing the State of New York
If you have a trip and fall or a slip and fall on New York State owned property, your case is governed by the Court of Claims Act. This Act gives you two options. You can either (1) serve and file a Verified Claim within 90 days of the incident; or (2) you can file a Notice of Intention to make claim with the within 90 days of an incident, in which case you will then have 2 years from the incident to file and serve a Verified Claim against the State of New York.