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What Really Happens When You Are Injured by a Municipal Entity

Large corporations and municipalities are notoriously difficult for wronged individuals to take on outside of a court of law. Of the many recent instances of municipal entities wielding their substantial power to get their way, one of the most infuriating is the bullying of Roselle, NJ resident Ashley Henderson by the New Jersey Transit Corporation.On the evening of June 25th, Ashley was driving with two friends into the city. She paid the toll at the Lincoln Tunnel, and as she was merging into one of the tunnel’s two lanes an NJ Transit bus attempted to pass her in bumper-to-bumper traffic, sideswiping her car and causing around five-thousand dollars worth of damage.In an effort to protect herself, Ashley made sure her friends took plenty of photographs: of her car, the damage, the bus and its license plate. All of the photographs are time-stamped in the women’s phones as having been taken within minutes of the accident. The following day, Ashley reported the incident to the Port Authority, and then contacted NJ Transit to file a claim for damages.The response she received was briefer and more vague than she could have ever imagined.

“Please be advised that NJ Transit has completed its investigation into the above captioned incident and finds no negligence or liability on the part of itself or any of its employees,” was all it detailed, signed by claims investigator Damon Hill.When she called Damon Hill requesting an appeal, Ashley was told that an appeal was not possible in this circumstance, but that her case would be looked into. After a month without any updates on her claim, Ashley called again, only this time she was told that a tracking chip on the alleged bus recorded that it was parked in a garage at the time of the incident. Ashley’s case was denied.Ashley is now in the difficult position of choosing between launching a small claims lawsuit against NJ Transit, risking a bump in her insurance rates, or just accepting NJ Transit’s judgment and eating the repair cost.This story is all too familiar for personal injury lawyers and the many victims of small abuses of power by large corporations. Nothing can be taken for granted when dealing with a municipal defendant, not even a claim as seemingly black and white as Ashley’s. More often than not, these cases end as a victory for the defendant, because the possible outcome of a lawsuit does not appear to be worth its cost. The courtroom is the individual’s most powerful weapon to seek justice when the odds are stacked against them.