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    What Happens When You Get in an Accident on Indigenous Land in California?

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    What Happens When You Get in an Accident on Indigenous Land in California?

What Happens When You Get in an Accident on Indigenous Land in California?
What Happens When You Get in an Accident on Indigenous Land in California?

Ultimate Guide to Understanding Tribal Law and Personal Injuries

Ultimate Guide to Understanding Native Land Lawsuits

When you suffer injuries on a premises due to another’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim against the responsible party’s insurer to recover compensation for the damages. However, if you’re injured on indigenous land, the rules are a bit different, and the time you have to pursue recovery also varies.

Ehline Law is a leading personal injury law firm in California that has helped over 3,000 injured victims and obtained more than $150 million in compensation and successful verdicts.

If you suffered injuries on tribal land in Northern California or anywhere in California due to another’s negligence, contact our California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You don’t want to lose your right to pursue recovery for your damages if you wait too long.

What Happens When You Get in an Accident on Indigenous Land in California?

A brief history is needed here to understand the animus. Peter Burnett, California’s first governor under the California Constitution of 1849, preached a war of extermination against the Indians here. After our Constitution was altered in 1879 to comply with the 14th Amendment, things got more accessible to the natives here. Ultimately, they started gaming casinos, mainly making their tribes wealthy and governed by Indian law. However, sometimes jurisdiction will overlap with a U.S. state or federal agency or be wholly subsumed, as with the California Fish and Game Commission. (DCFW.)

Effect of Sovereignty on Your Liability Claim

Although you may be in California, the United States recognizes tribal nations as sovereign governments. Indigenous communities have the inherent authority to govern their Indian race within the borders of the United States.

Federal Government Recognition

Initially, American Indian tribes received federal recognition as independent nations through treaties signed. Each tribe had traditional practices for obtaining natural resources and growing its indigenous communities. However, as the U.S. expanded westward and urban development spurred, internal pressure to remove the indigenous peoples grew. In the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871, Congress forbade any future treaties with the tribes, a move the indigenous peoples opposed.

The United States federal government recognizes tribal nations as “domestic dependent nations.” They have their legal system to define their relationship with the U.S. federal, state, and other tribal governments in Texas and across the country.

Tribal Law Governs Indigenous Communities

Unlike the California statute of limitations that allows injured victims two years following their injury to pursue legal action against the responsible party, the time limit varies if you suffered injuries on indigenous land within California.

The “statute of limitations” to pursue legal action against a responsible party for your injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death depends on tribal law. There are many sovereign tribes within California, each of which has the authority to write its tribal laws.

Your first step in seeking compensation is determining the tribe that owns the land on which the accident occurred. Once you’ve found out about the tribe, you must review the procedural laws of the tribe to determine how much time you have to pursue legal action and what the process is.

Can I Sue a Tribe for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death?

Consider each tribe as a separate independent country. They have the authority to choose whether to allow themselves to be the defendant in a personal injury or a wrongful death lawsuit. Some tribes protect themselves from legal action by invoking their right to sovereign immunity, meaning no one can pursue a civil case against that tribe. You may be able to sue some tribes, while others allow civil suits but with specific limitations.

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Sovereign Immunity

In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (a federal law) allowed Indian tribes to create gambling casinos on their land. The federal law allows the states to negotiate with the Indian tribes on how to handle injury claims.

For example, a 1999 tribal-state compact is a contract between California and various Indian casinos that limit injury liability for U.S. citizens playing in a tribal-owned casino. Since, under federal law, the California Indian tribe is a sovereign authority, they can exercise their right of sovereign immunity against injury liability and civil lawsuits in California state court.

Fortunately, many casinos have waived this immunity in their contract with California and its general public, meaning they are no longer immune to lawsuits and claims.

What Happens If I Get Hurt in an Indian Casino or Other Business?

California is the nation’s largest Indian gaming state, and currently, there are 76 Indian casinos operated by federally-recognized tribes, bringing in approximately $9 billion in total revenues.

The Tribe Has Jurisdiction over Your Civil Claim

If you’re injured in tribal-owned venues, you cannot pursue a civil lawsuit against the tribe responsible for your injuries in California state court. The tribe owning the Indian Casino where you suffered injuries has tribal jurisdiction over your claim.

You will have to pursue it in their court system, not California’s courts, as civil state laws don’t apply to tribes, including many environmental and food safety regulations that may apply in a local city.

Crimes are Governed Under U.S. and State Law

Indian lands must go through the relevant state and federal court for criminal charges and apply their due process guarantees; however, if you are being accused of criminal circumstances. But civil neglect is a tribal affair, and the possibility of winning is not as good based upon our legal research.

Indian Trained Lawyers Necessary

If you seek a benefit, the nature of Indian negligence laws for damages sought requires a lawyer with legal training and experience dealing with local authorities to make sense of it all. Contract law may also govern whether you can sue and for how much. After all, this is their world, and you elected to bring your life there, despite having time to get an individual education to the extent your laws do or do not apply.

Now all you can do is report your problem and hope its importance is the same to the Indian Casino as it was to you. But the history of holding Indian lands accountable for torts is not exactly bountiful. Yet over the decades, your chances to get compensation for accidents have increased, as Indians understand they need local “white eye” business.

So naturally, the tribal leaders seek to maintain respect and offer assistance to identify and compensate to avoid a backlash in tourism. But it’s still not as good as a California state or federal court remedy for the victims. Do you think this is reasonable?

The Legal Process Is Much More Complicated

Although they waived their right to total sovereign immunity, the civil legal process guidelines are not straightforward and offer far less protection. In many cases, the injury waiver might be for a specific casino portion, such as the “gaming floor.” Besides the complicated legal process, the time to pursue legal action varies, with some tribes shortening it to six months.

We you injured while attending ceremonies, as a vehicle occupant, drowning at a hotel pool, or somewhere else on a reservation? You may have heard your chances are hopeless. We beg to differ. Let’s get connected and talk about your case. We have been successful in many casino tour bus accidents and other trial cases.

Everything You Expected from a Tribal Injury Lawyer

When you discovered this web page, you found a great resource written by legal experts with heart and compassion. If you suffered harm from indigenous people or Native Americans on Indian lands in California, don’t take the law into your own hands and risk jail time. We understand the cultural aspects, the Indian fight, and your right to receive compensation for the incident that was not your fault. We can help elders, children, and other treated in such as way as to cause serious injury or death.

Let us help you acquire the just amount of compensation with help from multi-million dollar advocates with a history of winning significant verdicts and settlements. Please read our other materials or scroll down to receive a free case review of any alleged violation coupled with a bodily injury case.

Schedule Free Consultation with Ehline Law

Laws and timelines to pursue legal action vary across tribal lands, making the process even more complicated than it usually is. However, with our California personal injury attorney on your side, you can increase your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries. We are available 24/7 to discuss arranging an in-person meeting and forming an attorney-client relationship with your or injured family members.

Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation on your case with talented, direct, and effective litigators. You can also fill out our online contact us form to chat by Skype, Zoom, or email. Let us help you get back in control of your life before losing out on your rights by procrastinating! WE WIN BIG!


Washington Post


Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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