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You’ve been injured or hurt on Indian (Tribal) land.  A friend or family member has been killed on Indian land.


Can you bring a claim for money damages? 


Do non-Native Americans (non-Indians) have any legal rights on reservation land? 


Are the laws and Statutes of Limitation different than in state or federal court?

What if I was injured by another non-Native American (non-Indian) while on a reservation? 


Do I have any rights if I was injured in a tribal business such as a casino, night club, or hotel?


If a family member died on an Indian Reservation, does his/her estate or survivors have any legal right to pursue damages for wrongful death?


Can I sue a tribe for money damages for death or bodily injury?


In evaluating whether you or a family member may have a claim for injuries or wrongful death, it is important to understand how Native American tribes differ from non-tribal entities such as Cities, Counties, States, and the federal government. 


Native American Tribes are considered separate sovereign nations. As such, tribes possess inherent powers of self-government.  That means that those tribes in Washington that are federally recognized tribes are considered to possess tribal sovereignty.  Think of them as separate countries.  Federal recognition covers a tribe with both the right and the authority to control activities on their reservations.  Tribal sovereignty allows the tribe to write and enforce its own criminal and civil laws and to decide whether to allow civil claims such as bodily injury claims or wrongful death claims on Tribal Reservation lands.  The tribe can also enact procedural laws as to how, when, and if it will allow itself to be sued for damages for personal injuries or wrongful death. 


Against that legal backdrop a plaintiff must understand the tribal laws and regulations of the particular tribe against whom a claim is asserted.  Some tribes invoke their sovereign immunity such that no civil claims can be brought against them.  Others allow or place limits on the rights of those seeking to bring a claim.  For example, some tribes will allow civil claims to be brought if they could be brought in state or federal court.  These tribes will often purchase liability insurance, and limit the rights of the claimants to the upper (maximum) limit of those insurance policy limits.  Most tribes will allow outside legal counsel to argue cases, but will require that the outside attorney become a member of the bar association of that particular tribe.



Statutes of Limitation:


Statutes of Limitation act as deadlines within which a claimant must file a complaint within the proper tribal court.  While State and Federal courts typically apply a three (3) year Statute of Limitations in most injury or wrongful death cases, a claimant must not rely on that time period in Tribal Court.  Because each tribe is a separate sovereign nation, it can and will establish any Statute of Limitations it chooses.  This can be a trap for the unwary, so it is incumbent on the claimant to contact competent counsel immediately.  Failing to do so can result in denial or dismissal of your claim.

© 2018 by William J. Carlson, Inc., P.S. All rights reserved.

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