Here’s what you need to know about commercial and tribal casino liability for injuries, and how to build a strong personal injury claim.
Casinos are playgrounds for adults. Slot machines, free drinks, floor shows, and interesting characters make casinos fun places to spend some of our leisure time.
All but two states, Utah and Hawaii, allow some form of live gambling.
American casinos are raking in record-breaking revenue, exceeding $92 billion per year.¹
With thousands of fun-seeking people visiting commercial and tribal-owned casinos every day, accidents are bound to happen.
When you or a loved one have been injured by casino negligence, you have a right to expect fair compensation. Getting a fair settlement depends on knowing who is responsible for your injuries, and how to build a strong insurance claim.
Common Casino Accidents and Injuries
The most popular casinos are large properties with every imaginable luxury provided to guests, on and off the gambling floor. Casinos are required to keep their property and mechanical equipment clean and safe. Yet, accidents happen every day:
Food poisoning: Whether in formal dining settings, room service, or fast food, casinos serve thousands of meals each year. Food left out too long, unsanitary conditions, and employees with unclean hands can cause food poisoning.
Slip and fall accidents: Slip and falls are among the most common casino accidents. Guests can be injured by slipping and falling in casino restaurants, gambling areas, hotel rooms, on shuttle buses, around swimming pools, and in parking lots.
Broken slot machine chairs: Injuries from broken furniture happen all the time in high-use areas. Casinos normally place hundreds of chairs in front of slot machines. Because thousands of patrons sit and swivel on those chairs daily, they often break down, causing injuries.
Shuttle bus injuries: Many casinos use shuttle buses to carry patrons to and from hotels and airports. When drivers fail to drive responsibly, accidents can happen with other vehicles. Passengers can also easily fall due to aisle obstructions, slippery steps, and other shuttle bus hazards.
Burns: Excessively hot tap water can scald casino guests. Faulty hotel room appliances like irons, coffee makers and hair dryers are other sources of painful burns. Bad burns can result in infections and permanent scarring.
Criminal activity: Casino patrons may be flush with cash, wearing expensive jewelry, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thieves may pilfer hotel rooms. Casino guests may be assaulted and injured by pickpockets, muggers, armed robbers, and rapists.
Casino Negligence Resulting in Injuries
When your injuries are caused by casino management or employee negligence, the casino may be responsible. Common areas of casino negligence include:
- Hiring unqualified employees, like kitchen staff, security guards, and bartenders
- Slippery floors from leaks and spills
- Poorly maintained furniture or equipment
- Poorly maintained elevators, stairs, and escalators
- Unsafe lighting
- Lack of security
- Failing to maintain buildings and parking garages
- Overserving alcohol
Dram Shop Violations
You don’t have to set foot on casino property to be injured by their negligence. If you’re the victim of a drunk driver who was over-served alcohol at a casino, the business may have some liability for your damages.
Dram shop is an antiquated term for bars, taverns, and anywhere alcohol is served. The term is still used by attorneys and lawmakers.
Most states have dram shop laws that allow injured persons to seek compensation from the casino that served the at-fault driver.
Under dram shop laws, when casino employees serve alcoholic drinks to an obviously intoxicated customer, the casino can be held legally responsible for the property damage and injuries the drunk person causes.
Talk to a personal injury attorney if you or a loved one was injured in a drunk-driving accident involving a casino. In some states, tribal-owned casinos are exempt from dram shop laws.
Enabling Gambling Addiction
Estimates are that nine out of ten adults who visit casinos will gamble responsibly. Even though only a small percentage of casino visitors gamble addictively, considering the millions of visitors each year, a significant number of people are damaged by gambling.
Until recently, casinos were generally protected from liability for extreme gambling addiction repercussions like excessive debt, loss of family assets, suicides, and criminal behavior of heavily indebted players.
Casinos generally argued assumption of risk, meaning the gambler knew they could lose everything and knowingly decided to gamble anyway.
Slowly, casinos are beginning to take some responsibility for the public’s welfare when it comes to gambling.
Following some high-profile murder cases linked to excessive gambling, the American Gaming Association (AGA) adopted a Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming.
AGA members, including casino owners, who adopt the pledge agree to:
- Promote responsible gambling
- Prevent underage gambling
- Serve alcoholic beverage responsibly
- Advertise responsibly
How the AGA pledge will affect personal injury claims arising from gambling addictions remains to be seen. If you believe a casino is to blame for damages to you or your family from excessive gambling, talk to a personal injury attorney in your area.
When is a Casino Liable for Injuries?
Casinos invite thousands of people onto their premises each day. Just like any other business, premises liability laws hold casinos to a very high duty of care (obligation) to protect their patrons from injuries.
The courts require casinos to do everything reasonably possible to protect their patrons from foreseeable events that could result in injuries.
Casinos don’t have to protect their patrons from every incident that could result in injury, only from incidents a prudent and reasonable casino manager knows, or should know, could result in harm.
For example, a casino manager knows, or should know the importance of making regular inspections of slot machine chairs to prevent customer injuries.
Example: Slot Player Injured by Broken Chair
Shirley and her two girlfriends were excited to get their weekend getaway off to a fun start. The three ladies headed for the brightly blinking slot machines. As Shirley sat down to play, her chair broke, and she fell to the floor, spraining her back and breaking her wrist.
In this case, the casino manager’s failure to regularly inspect and repair the game floor swivel chairs resulted in a foreseeable injury. The casino was liable, meaning responsible for, Shirley’s damages.
When a casino owner or employee makes a mistake or fails to do what a reasonable person would do, the casino is guilty of negligence. When the casino’s negligence causes anyone to get hurt, it means the casino breached its legal duty of care.
Because the casino breached its duty, the injured person is entitled to compensation for their damages.
Damages include things like medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and other medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
When the Injured Person is Responsible
Your compensation claim may be reduced or flatly denied if you share some of the blame for the circumstances leading to your injuries.
Contributory Negligence laws are extreme injury laws affecting personal injury claims in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Under pure contributory negligence rules, you lose the right to compensation if you share any blame at all for your injury.
Comparative Negligence or modified comparative fault rules are the law in most states, allowing you to pursue an injury claim even if you’re partially to blame for your injuries. In pure comparative negligence states, you can seek compensation, even if you’re 99% at fault for your accident.
In modified comparative fault states, the amount of compensation you can get depends on your share of the blame. In some states, you won’t be eligible for any compensation if you are equally to blame (50% rule) or more to blame (51% rule) for the circumstances of your injuries.
Example: Contributory Negligence for Broken Chair Injury
During a routine inspection of the gaming floor chairs in an Alabama casino, an employee found a broken swivel chair in front of a slot machine. The employee promptly placed a large “Out of Order” sign on the slot machine.
Marco had been drinking steadily and was eager to recoup some of his gambling losses. Marco decided the slot machine that was out of order was due for a big “hit,” so he moved the warning sign and plopped into the chair. As he did, the chair came apart, and he fell, suffering a concussion.
Most reasonable casino guests would avoid sitting at an out of order slot machine. Marco’s injury was caused by his own negligence when he failed to heed the “Out of Order” sign.
Under pure comparative negligence rules, Marco isn’t eligible for any injury compensation from the casino.
Native American Casinos and Tribal Law
Tribal-owned casinos operate on Native American lands. You can enjoy the same amenities as any other casino, including luxury hotels, restaurants, pools, entertainment, and gambling. However, tribal lands are sovereign.
If you’re injured in a casino on tribal land, the state’s personal injury laws may not apply.
Sovereignty means self-governing, without interference from outside control.
Tribal sovereignty means the federal government recognizes the authority of Native American tribes to govern themselves within United States borders. Technically, tribal lands aren’t part of the United States and are not ruled by state laws.
Native casino injury claims are handled differently than claims against non-tribal facilities. Casinos on tribal land always have immunity from lawsuits filed in state courts.
Sometimes, casinos will waive their immunity for parts of their casino to make them more enticing to outside customers. It’s a marketing strategy. They may only waive immunity for the bar or the restaurant, not the entire facility. Keep in mind, no tribe will ever give up full immunity from prosecution.
Fortunately, claims filed against a tribal casino’s insurance company are usually handled much the same as any other liability insurance claim. If your claim is denied, or you’re unable to settle, your only recourse will be to file a personal injury lawsuit against the tribe.
The statute of limitations for injury claims under tribal law is much different from state laws, sometimes as short as a few months. If you miss the tribal deadline for filing a claim, you’ve lost your right to seek compensation.
Don’t risk ending up empty-handed. Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your injury claim against a Native-owned casino.
Claims Against Commercial Casinos
Filing an injury claim against a casino outside of Native American territory is like filing an insurance claim against any other company. To succeed in your claim, you must show the casino breached its duty of care to you through negligence, and the negligence resulted in your damages.
You can prove the casino was negligent by showing:
- The casino had a duty of care to protect you from injury.
- Casino management knew or should have known of the dangerous situation.
- The casino was negligent by not correcting the danger.
- The negligence directly caused your injury.
- You have confirmed damages.
Build a Strong Casino Injury Claim
Casinos are billion-dollar businesses protected by armies of lawyers and big, strong insurance companies. Whether you’re filing an insurance claim or considering a lawsuit, it’s all on you to prove the casino is liable for your injuries. Build a strong claim by collecting good evidence.
Ask for help: When you’re hurt, ask to see the manager. The manager will see that you receive appropriate medical care and document your injury and its cause. If your injury is serious enough to require emergency medical services, ask them to call 911.
Tell the casino manager exactly what happened. Show the manager where and how you came to be injured.
For example, if you were on the dance floor and slipped and fell on a broken wine glass that cut your leg, show the manager the broken glass. Don’t take any chances. You could need stitches, and if the cut is severe enough, it could have punctured a blood vessel or sliced a tendon.
Be sure to tell the manager you’d like the contact information for the casino’s insurance company and a copy of the casino’s incident report.
Medical attention: When the paramedics arrive, they will either treat you on the spot or take you to the nearest emergency room. If the paramedics want to take you to the hospital, go with them.
If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital from the scene, you must have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. See your primary care provider or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center. If you’re visiting the casino from out of town, ask management to help you arrange for prompt medical attention.
Never refuse or delay medical treatment. The insurance company will jump at the chance to deny your claim by arguing your injury didn’t happen at the casino.
Talk to witnesses: Witnesses are crucial. Family and friends make good witnesses, but independent onlookers make great witnesses. Independent witnesses have no personal or financial interest in the outcome of your claim, so insurance companies are more likely to rely on them when determining the casino’s liability.
Ask any witnesses to write down what they saw in as much detail as they can remember. Have them sign and date their statement.
Imagine you were on a casino shuttle bus and the driver ran a stop sign, crashing into another car. The seat you were in had a broken seatbelt. At the point of impact, you fell forward, hitting your head. You can:
- Ask other passengers to look at the broken seat belt and your injuries.
- Have witnesses write down that they saw the broken seatbelt and saw you hurled forward into the next seat.
- Ask them to be clear that the shuttle bus driver ran a stop sign.
The more witness statements you have, the stronger your claim will be.
Take pictures and video: Today’s cell phones are excellent tools in building your injury claim. For example, if you were in front of a slot machine and the door to the machine popped open, slamming you in the knee, use your cell phone and capture the door as it is.
Don’t hesitate to take pictures. Within minutes after reporting your injury, someone will close the door. Once it’s closed, you’ve lost a golden opportunity.
Use the audio function to record what the manager or employees have to say. An apology will go a long way as an implied admission that the door’s malfunction was the casino’s fault. These admissions make strong evidence of negligence.
Confirm your damages: If you don’t have damages, you don’t have an injury claim. Your injuries must be confirmed by proof of medical treatment. It’s nearly impossible to win a claim for emotional distress unless you are also physically injured.
Your injuries and resulting damages must be documented. Request copies of your medical bills and records from the ambulance service, emergency room, and all medical and mental health care you’ve received. Save receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses like medications, bandages, crutches, and even hospital parking lot fees.
Ask your employer for a statement of lost wages, including vacation, sick days, and any bonuses you lost due to the injury.
Maximize Your Injury Compensation
If you were hurt in a commercial casino, you should be able to negotiate a fair settlement for soft tissue injuries like cuts, bruises, sprained muscles, or other minor injuries, without the help of an attorney.
Once you’ve fully recovered, figure out your claim value by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.
Send a written demand with copies of all your bills, receipts, witness statements, and photographic evidence.
We’ve made it easy with this sample Personal Injury Demand Letter.
If you were injured in a Native-owned casino on tribal land, consult a skilled, local personal injury attorney from the start. The attorney will verify the potential value of your claim and tell you what you may be up against under tribal law.
Remember that under tribal law, you may only have a very short time to file a claim or lawsuit to seek compensation from a casino. You can’t afford to wait and see if you can handle negotiations on your own.
Claims against Native-owned casinos, complicated cases like Dram Shop claims, and claims for “hard” injuries like spinal cord injuries, brain trauma, and permanent scarring all require an attorney to maximize your compensation.
There’s too much at stake to risk losing your right to fair compensation. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.
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Casino Injury Claim Questions & Answers
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