My child broke her finger when a swing chain link on a swing set in a public park broke while she was swinging high in the air causing her to fall to the ground landing on her pointer finger and fracture it. She has permanent mobility damage, cannot sustain weight on it as well as disfiguration as it does not lay straight. She has been through the healing and physical therapy and there is no more they can do for her. The insurance company is asking me what type of an award I am looking for. I am not sure what I can ask for as I feel there is really no money that will cover the damage she will now how to live with for her entire life. I don't want to ask for too little, but I want to make sure she can receive all that she is entitled to. What figure would you recommend?
I'm going to give you the short answer. Please get an attorney, and also please note that you must give the municipality notice pursuant to the NJ Tort Claims Act to recover any money. That notice has to be given within 90 days. It is not enough that the town knows about the incident, but that you filled out official forms. Please consult with an attorney ASAP so you can get the maximum amount of compensation that your daughter is entitled to.
I concur that you should consult with an attorney before making any deals with the insurance company. If you do end up suing the town, you may need to file a Tort Claims Notice. Also, there are statute of limitations to consider. You should consult with an attorney as soon as you can to make sure all of your daughter's rights are protected.
The assessment of value is a complicated undertaking, even more so under a Title 59 Tort claims case (one in which the defendant is a town). I am concerned that you are approaching the 90 day deadline for filing the Tort Claims notice form, (which is a separate form and filing from a lawsuit) based on your statement that your daughter has already healed a fracture, gone through therapy, and still no complete improvement.
In addition to the Title 59 issues, since this involves a minor, you need to explore how the settlement proceeds will be given to your daughter (with options like a structured settlement vs. simply depositing the money in the local surrogate’s account until she turns 18);
You also need to get Court approval for any settlement since it involves a minor, and will need to attend and prepare for a court appearance called a Friendly Hearing, even if you settle the case without filing suit, and without a lawyer.
At that court appearance the Judge will make an assessment as to whether or not the settlement is appropriate, so if you “asked too little”, the Judge will not approve it. Even if the settlement is for the right amount, the Judge will likely want to see that you made inquiry in to various structured settlements proposals.
In short, take advantage of the free consults offered by virtually every personal injury attorney, before you go any further.
New Jersey Personal Injury - Public Park Hazardous Condition - Damages - by Patrick Amoresano: No experienced personal injury attorney is going to recommend a settlement figure. Your child has a serious personally injur claim which MUST be filed with the Superior Court for its review and approval of a settlement based on the opinions of medical experts and the testimony of witnesses. There is no way you can fulfill your parental obligations in this situation without hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. How old is your child? Did she injure her dominant hand? What did the doctor give as the reason for the permanent nature of her disfigurement and disability? I have more questions but this is really something that calls for a telephone consultation.
I am sorry to hear about your daughter's injuries. First of all, do you have a lawyer? If so, you should discuss your concerns with that person. Secondly, I am assuming that a 90 day Notice of Claim was filed with the public municipality where this incident occurred. If not, you may be out of luck in getting any kind of settlement. A question as you pose can never easily be answered with first reviewing all of the medical records, treatment notes, etc., together with an accounting of out of pocket medical costs. You should go over these issues with your attorney. If not, you should immediately consult with an attorney prior to entering into any settlement.
I agree with most of the answers provided by the other attorneys. You must contact an experienced lawyer and you should not settle the case on your own. You must have the case set up for litigation but as stated a Notice of Claim has to be filed with the proper public entities that own and maintain the park within the time allowed by the Title 59 statute. Normally, for an adult, that time period is 90 days from the date of the injury. However, it may be extended for your child, if a Notice has not been sent yet, because your child (which sounds like a minor less than 18 years), has an extended Notice of Claim and Statute of limitations date. In law it is called being "tolled". However, an attorney must tell you this after getting all the facts. There are too many traps for the unwary. Therefore, you need an attorney as soon as possible, do not delay so time will not pass to damage any potential claim. There could be another claim against other non public entities as well but again an attorney should review this and advise you further. As far as value, no one can or should go near that question unless all facts are known and the claim thoroughly understood. As with the other lawyers, these are suggestions and not legal advice since all we know is what you told us so far.
Make sure to file a TCA notice within 90 days of the incident pursuant to Title 59. As your daughter is a minor, you may be afforded extra time but not if she has medical expenses that are your responsibility. Ultimately if it is a public entity responsible for the injury by their negligence, your daughter may have to prove that they knew about the hazard and that she has a permanent loss of bodily function. I would strongly recommend getting an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
My best recommendation is to speak with a personal injury attorney who offers A free 30 minute consultation, such as myself. If there was a defect, you may need an engineer to confirm it, and you will definetely need a doctor and an attorney to get you maximum compensation for the injury suffered.
Matthew C. Simon, Esq.
The Law Office of John Tierney
1259 Route 46 East
Building 3, Suite 133
Parsippany NJ 07054
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