Consider these scenarios:
- A car swerves while trying to avoid a large pot hole on state highway 33 and strikes a tree, totaling the vehicle.
- A town park’s sliding board railing isn’t securely fastened, and a child falls and breaks her arm.
- A councilmember makes false statements about a resident who criticizes his plans.
There could be legal recourse in each instance because property, a person or someone’s reputation was harmed. The public works department is responsible for keeping roads in good condition, and the parks department is charged with maintaining safe playground equipment. A public official can’t smear a private citizen’s reputation without consequences. Instead of two private parties, however, these examples involve a public entity – a state or municipality – and the procedure for filing a lawsuit is different than in private cases.
Notice of Claim
First, a Notice of Claim must be filed:
- If a New York State department is involved, a Notice of Claim is filed with the New York State Court of Claims clerk and served against the state attorney general within 90 days of the incident.
- If it’s a New York municipality, a Notice of Claim is filed with the town or city within 90 days of the incident and will be heard in County Court or Supreme Court.
Many people choose to hire a lawyer to manage the Notice of Claim filing and prepare them for the next pre-trial step – a 50-H hearing. The state or local department can request the hearing, in which, very similar to a deposition, both parties to a lawsuit provide sworn testimony.
What to Expect at a 50-H Hearing
A 50-H hearing is typically conducted at a lawyer’s office, not at a courthouse, and both parties and their witnesses or experts will be called to testify. Before the hearing, your lawyer will prepare you by conducting a “mock” hearing, explaining the process and providing guidance on what to wear. The goal isn’t to sound rehearsed or look like a fashion model, but to the extent possible, eliminate surprises.
It’s natural to feel nervous at the hearing, but these suggestions, along with your lawyer’s guidance, will help ease any jitters.
- Arrive early – about 15 minutes or more if recommended by your attorney
- Listen carefully to a question and ask for clarification if needed.
- Take time to carefully consider a response before speaking.
- Answer only what is asked. Do not volunteer additional information.
- Be courteous – this is not the time to debate or become angry.
- Lawyers from both sides might engage in conversations and questions with each other. Don’t become involved in these discussions.
After the hearing is over and transcripts have been exchanged, there could be a settlement offer. If not, the case moves to the courtroom for a trial.
Trust an Experienced, Compassionate Advocate
It takes more than courage to bring a legal action against the government; you need an experienced personal injury lawyer Bronx who knows the ropes. Evan W. Kohn has more than 30 years of legal experience and understands the complexities of the New York legal system. He offers a free consultation that can lead to the best possible outcome for your case. Se habla español. Contact our office today at (718) 409-5500 for more information and to schedule an appointment.