What is a “Notice of Claim”?

If you have been injured due to the negligence of a municipal entity (such as the City of New York), you will need to file a document known as a “Notice of Claim” within a fixed deadline after the accident or event in order to protect your rights. Failure to do so may result in dismissal of the case, so compliance with this requirement is critical.

There are many statutes that provide notice of claim requirements, and this article is not meant to address all of them. The most broadly applicable notice of claim provision is set forth in the New York General Municipal Law.

General Municipal Law § 50-e(1)(a) provides, in part:

In any case founded upon tort where a notice of claim is required by law as a condition precedent to the commencement of an action or special proceeding against a public corporation, as defined in the general construction law, or any officer, appointee or employee thereof, the notice of claim shall comply with and be served in accordance with the provisions of this section within ninety days after the claim arises; except that in wrongful death actions, the ninety days shall run from the appointment of a representative of the decedent’s estate.

General Municipal Law § 50-e(2), in turn, sets forth the form and contents of the notice. It provides, in part, that the notice

shall be in writing, sworn to by or on behalf of the claimant, and shall set forth: (1) the name and post-office address of each claimant, and of his attorney, if any; (2) the nature of the claim; (3) the time when, the place where and the manner in which the claim arose; and (4) the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained so far as then practicable[.]

Section 50-e(3) further sets forth the manner in which the notice of claim is to be served.

Filing a notice of claim is not a substitute for filing a lawsuit: Even if a notice of claim is timely filed, a lawsuit must be commenced within one year and ninety days after the happening of the event upon which the claim is based. Wrongful death actions shall be commenced within two years after the death. (See General Municipal Law § 50-i.)

While there is a procedure in place for filing a late notice of claim (see General Municipal Law § 50-e(5)), there is no guarantee that a late filing will be permitted. Therefore, it is absolutely vital that all relevant deadlines be complied with, or important rights may be lost forever.

Further information on filing a notice of claim can be found here.

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