If you enjoy gambling, you’re in luck — with seven casinos, Florida has more gambling opportunities than many other states. However, you might be surprised to learn that gambling is illegal at the state level in Florida. How, then, can casinos legally operate?
Like in many other states, Florida’s casinos are on Native American reservations and are owned and operated by Native American tribes. Although this is a great loophole for Floridians that enjoy gaming, being on tribal lands also means that you’re subject to tribal laws.
All of this is fine unless you happen to sustain a casino injury while in a Native American casino. Personal injury law works much differently on tribal lands.
Let’s take a look at how injury claims work for Native American casino injuries, and what your rights are should you find yourself hurt.
Filing an Injury Claim With a Tribe in Florida
If you’re injured while gambling (for example, on Seminole land, where the majority of Florida’s casinos are located), you are subject to Seminole laws. These laws severely hinder your ability to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injury.
Your first option is to try to file a claim with the Tribe’s insurance provider. Under tribal laws, you only have six months to file a claim — much shorter than the several years allowed under general Florida law.
You can obtain a claim form by sending a letter to the management of the casino where you were injured, which must be completed and returned within six months of your injury. From there, the Tribe will handle the situation and determine if your injury is covered by the casino’s insurance.
Suing a Tribe in Florida: The Roadblock of Sovereign Immunity
If you don’t feel that the results of your claim are fair, you might need to file a lawsuit against the Tribe. This could allow you to get the compensation you need for your injury — but again, tribal laws work differently.
Let’s look at the Seminole tribal law specifically, as the Seminole tribe operates the majority of Florida’s casinos.
Generally, the Seminole Tribe enjoys sovereign immunity from personal injury lawsuits. This means that the Tribe is immune from the vast majority of personal injury liability. A slip and fall lawsuit just won’t happen under most circumstances.
While this might seem unfair at first, remember that the tribal laws are what allowed you to gamble in the first place. Think of this as the fine print of the loophole that allows any form of gambling in our state.
That said, in order to build Florida casinos, the Seminole tribe has made compromises that do allow some people to file a personal injury suit. The following circumstances allow you to file suit:
- You are injured on the gaming floor. This means that if you were injured while playing the slots, you’re allowed to file a suit. If you slipped and fell in the bathroom, however, you’re out of luck.
- The damages of your injury exceed $100,000. For example, if you sustained a life-altering injury that results in lifelong disability, or a loved one suffered a wrongful death, you might be able to file a personal injury suit.
- The injury occurred as a result of illegal Tribal gaming that took place outside of Tribal land.
Hurt in a Florida Casino? Act Fast
The take-home message?
If you are injured in a Florida casino accident, you may or may not be able to seek damages. However, due to the special time constraints of filing a claim, it is imperative to act as soon as possible, and get the process in motion.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.