Don't Let Insurance Companies Make Decisions For You

« Back to Home

Car Accident On Tribal Land? 3 Instances In Which You Can Sue In State Or Federal Court

Posted on

Have you or somebody you know been injured in a car accident on tribal land due to the negligence of another driver? Do you want to seek compensation for your damages, and have you heard that, due to tribal sovereignty laws, you'll need to bring your case to a tribal court? It's true that in many cases personal injury lawsuits that happen on tribal land must go through tribal court, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Read on to learn 3 situations in which an accident that occurred on tribal land may be settled in a state or federal court.

The Person That Caused The Accident Was A Non-Tribe Member

Personal jurisdiction of the defendant plays a big role in what court will hear your lawsuit. If an individual has a long-standing connection with the American Indian tribe who owns the land you or your loved one was injured on, then they are usually entitled to protection by that tribal government. If neither the injured party nor the person who is responsible for your injuries is a member of the tribe, however, then the tribal court has little interest in the matter, and the case can be heard before a state court.

The Defendant Is Willing To Waive Sovereignty  

Any case for which an American Indian defendant (in agreeance with their tribal council) has clearly waived their sovereign immunity may be brought before a state court. Why would a defendant waive their immunity? Business owners often seek insurance policies to protect them from liability in tribal court and Native American travelers often seek auto insurance policies to protect them while traveling outside of their tribal territory. In some cases, there are clauses in these policies that state that the policy holder's immunity will be waived as long as the dollar amount of the damages they're sued for does not exceed the dollar amount that their policy will cover.  

If the person who is responsible for your or your loved one's injuries has auto liability coverage and that coverage specifically states that they waive their sovereignty in the event of an incident, then you may be able to take the case to state court for up to the maximum coverage amount of their policy. Likewise, if the automobile accident was caused by a drunk driver and you suspect that they were served too much alcohol at a tribal casino or restaurant, you may be able to bring a dram shop case against that establishment in state court.

Your Accident Falls Under The Major Crimes Act

Due to their serious nature, some crimes committed by Native Americans on tribal land will always be heard by a federal court, regardless of tribal membership or sovereignty. Included in these crimes are murder, manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon or with intent to murder.

If another driver's negligence caused an accident in which you lost a family member, this is considered manslaughter, and your case can be heard in federal court. Your case will also be heard by a federal court if the accident wasn't an accident, but instead a vicious, purposeful attempt by the negligent party to cause injury to you or your loved one by hitting the vehicle you were in with their own vehicle. 

Just because you or your loved one sustained injuries in a car accident that occurred on tribal land does not necessarily mean that your personal injury case will have to go through tribal court. If your accident occurred under any of the above circumstances, visit a personal injury lawyer and ask for guidance on how to get your case seen before a state or federal court. You can visit to learn more about accident lawyers in your area.