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

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

If you had an accident and you got hurt on tribal land in California, the only thing of which you can be certain is that the rules will be different from what you might be used to on non-tribal land. A federally recognized North American tribe is a separate sovereign nation. They can make their own laws and choose how and when to enforce them.

If you got injured or lost a loved one on tribal land in California, you will want to talk to a California personal injury attorney right away. The amount of time that you have to take legal action is set by each tribe and might differ from the statute of limitations in the state of California. Let’s explore what happens when you get hurt in an accident on indigenous land in California.

How Long You Have to File a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Statute on Indigenous Land in California

The amount of time you have to take legal action for a personal injury or wrongful death on indigenous land in California will be a matter of tribal law. Every sovereign tribe writes its own tribal laws and regulations. First, you will need to determine which tribe owns the land on which the accident happened. Then, you will need to check the procedural laws of that tribe to find out how quickly you need to take legal action and the process by which you can do so.

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

Every tribe gets to choose whether it will allow itself to be the defendant in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. It will help if you think of each tribe as a separate country. Some tribes invoke their right to sovereign immunity, which means that no one can bring a civil lawsuit against them. Some tribes allow people to sue them, while others allow lawsuits but with specific limitations.

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

As of 2020, there were 69 Indian casinos in California. These popular venues draw in crowds of people seeking entertainment and fun. If you get injured in any of the Indian casinos in California, do not expect to be able to file a lawsuit against the tribe in a California state court seeking compensation for your injuries and losses.

The tribe that owns the casino will have jurisdiction over your civil claim. You will have to go through that tribe’s court system, not California state courts. The good news is that many casinos in the state of California have, at least to some extent, waived their right to sovereign immunity for personal injury claims. 

Although you might be able to sue a tribe if you get hurt in an Indian casino or another Indian-owned business, the legal process you will have to follow will be different from what you might expect in a California state court. Still, casinos operating in the state of California must carry liability insurance for injuries. It can be easier to negotiate the settlement of a claim with the casino’s liability insurance carrier than to go through the tribal court system. You will want to talk to a California personal injury attorney right away if you got hurt on indigenous land. Some of the deadlines are as short as six months, so you do not want to delay. Take action quickly if you require legal assistance by getting in touch with our office today, we offer a free consultation.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.