A lawsuit is a case in a court of law by one party against another party. For example, you can bring a lawsuit against DHS if you believe you have a valid legal claim against them.
There are several steps you must take if you plan to sue DHS for civil damages. While Legal Aid does not represent clients in this type of case, here is some general information about how to bring your case.
What is a lawsuit?
What are damages?
Damages are the money equivalent for an injury sustained. For example, you can bring a lawsuit against DHS for money damages if you believe DHS has injured you in a way recognized by the courts.
What kinds of claims can I make against DHS?
You can sue DHS if you believe that DHS has violated the law or acted negligently and this negligence caused you to experience an injury. In order to make such a claim, you will need proof that DHS violated the law or acted negligently. You will also need proof of the injury that you suffered as a result of something DHS did or did not do. You should consult an experienced attorney about your claim, and the attorney can tell you whether you are likely to win your claim in court. Information about how to find an attorney is located below.
What is a Notice of Claim?
Before you can file a lawsuit (or “claim”) against a New York City agency, such as DHS, you must give the agency “notice” by filing a Notice of Claim. Once you have notified the City of your claim, you will receive a claim number. You will need this number in order to file your lawsuit. If you do not file a Notice of Claim on time, it is likely that a court will dismiss your case.
How do I give “notice” to DHS?
DHS is a “mayoral agency,” therefore you will file your Notice of Claim with the City of New York Comptroller’s office. In response, the City of New York Comptroller will issue you a document (also called a Notice of Claim) and a claim number.
Note that if you are bringing a lawsuit against a “non-mayoral agency” in New York City (for example, the MTA or NYCHA) or against New York State or the federal government, you will file your Notice of Claim with a different office.
The Notice of Claim must be in writing and notarized. It must include the following information:
- the name and mailing address of each claimant, and of his/her attorney, if any;
- the nature of the claim (note: make sure to list all claims you intend to bring);
- when and where the thing that you are suing about happened, and how it happened, in as much detail
as possible; AND
- the items and dollar amount of damages or injuries that are claimed to have been sustained, to the
extent you know or can put a dollar value on them at the time you are writing the notice.
Check the City of New York Comptroller’s website for Notice of Claim forms for your type of claim (such as personal injury or property damage). You do not have to use the official form as long as your Notice of Claim includes the required information, but it is wise to use the official form if you can get it.
The Notice of Claim must be served by personal delivery, or by registered or certified mail (return receipt requested) to:
The City of New York Comptroller
Municipal Building, Room 1225
One Center Street
New York, NY 10007
Personal service must be made upon a qualified person (for example, at a service window with a person who regularly receives legal process for the office). Keep a copy for your records.
When do I need to file a Notice of Claim?
You are required to notify New York City of your claim within 90 days of the incident or event upon which your claim is based. (Although, note that in a wrongful death claim, the 90-day period starts from the date of appointment of a representative for the decedent’s estate.)
What if 90 days have already passed?
If you want to serve a late Notice of Claim (after the 90 days has expired), you must bring a lawsuit called a “special proceeding” in the state Supreme Court before the statute of limitations for filing the lawsuit expires. The application must include a copy of the proposed Notice of Claim. The Court will consider multiple factors in deciding whether to extend the time to serve the Notice of Claim.
I have filed my Notice of Claim. What happens next?
After you have notified the City of the claim and obtained a claim number, you must wait 30 days before filing your lawsuit. During this time, the City will review your claim and perhaps settle the case with you. After the waiting period, you may file your lawsuit in court. You must commence the lawsuit within one year and 90 days after the incident or event upon which the claim is based. That is the statute of limitations mentioned above.
On the papers you file to start the lawsuit in court, include your claim number, and note in writing that you timely served a Notice of Claim and that the 30-day waiting period has expired.
How Do I Find an Attorney?
You can contact the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 800-342-3661 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit them online. You can also contact the New York City Bar Association at 212-626-7373. Either of these services can connect you with a lawyer who may be able to help you with your case.
What if I have been found ineligible for shelter at PATH?
If you have been found ineligible for shelter at PATH, you should not file a Notice of Claim. Instead, please call The Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project hotline at 800-649-9125.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.