The Albany Times Union recently reported that New York City is settling claims of wrongdoing against the City even where no lawsuit has been filed. This is a business and cost-saving decision by the Comptroller who has determined that the City will save money by settling cases than by litigating them sometimes for years. The full article may be viewed here.
While, from a plaintiff's perspective, it may seem like a good thing for your case to settle soon after you file a notice of claim – a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against a municipality – there are some negative impacts of this type of policy. One issue is that, by settling claims prior to the litigation process, a municipality is not investigating the basis for the claim and potentially not sufficiently informing the entity accused of wrongdoing. It is therefore possible that a city will not sufficiently investigate, for example, a police officer who has been accused of excessive force. This is an issue that has been highlighted by civil rights activists who claim that the NYPD is not sufficiently aware of multiple claims of excessive force against certain officers or that officers have been accused of using illegal chokeholds. In addition, individuals who have been victims of misconduct are often offered low settlements that, because of their socioeconomic status, they cannot take the risk of saying no to. This also leads to failures to investigate and, for the plaintiff, potentially receiving a lower settlement than they might be entitled to if the case were to proceed into litigation.
If you have been the victim of wrongdoing by a municipality it is important to contact an experienced attorney because there are strict time deadlines applicable to these claims. An experienced attorney will also be able to assess whether, in your particular case, it is appropriate to accept an early settlement or if you will ultimately be better served by persisting in the litigation process.
Giovanna A. D'Orazio by Giovanna A. D'Orazio |
Giovanna practices employment, land use, commercial, civil and personal injury law at D'Orazio Peterson
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