Slip and Fall Accidents in a Clearwater-area Casino

May 1, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Slip and Fall Accidents in a Clearwater-area Casino

Falling and getting hurt can happen anywhere, including a casino in the Clearwater area. But the injuries you sustain in a slip and fall are unique to you, and they can all-too-easily derail your life and inflict severe physical, emotional, and financial difficulty.

If you fell and got hurt at a Clearwater-area casino, you may receive compensation for your losses. But due to the varied nature and ownership of gaming businesses in the region, the process for obtaining that money can get complicated. Hiring an experienced Clearwater slip and fall lawyer is the most reliable way to ensure you get fair treatment and the money you need to pay for your care and plan for the future.

General Rule for Slip and Fall Liability in Clearwater

Slip and Fall Accidents in a Clearwater-area Casino

Lawyers use the term slip and fall to refer to falling and getting hurt because of a dangerous condition at a property you don’t own. You don’t actually need to slip before falling to have a slip and fall case. You could just as easily trip, stumble, or lose your balance in some other way.

To have a slip and fall case, what matters is that:

  • You fell and got hurt while at a property you don’t own; and
  • Your fall happened because of a hazard that someone in charge of the property reasonably should have fixed, kept you away from, or warned you about.

As a general rule, a slip and fall lawyer can hold the party who could and should have done something to prevent your fall—usually the property’s owner, tenant, or manager—liable to you for your injuries. That’s because, generally speaking, anyone who owns, leases, or oversees a property in Clearwater owes a basic duty to keep visitors to their premises safe from unreasonable dangers that could lead to a preventable fall.

This rule applies at almost any type of property in Clearwater, be it a residence, a place of business, or a public building or outdoor space. That includes poker rooms and similar gaming businesses that operate on private property around the Clearwater region.

Compensation You Could Receive

If you fell and got hurt at a Clearwater-region casino subject to the general rule of liability above, the owner, operator, or manager (and their insurance carriers) may owe you significant monetary damages.

A skilled Clearwater slip and fall lawyer handling your case could get you payment for:

  • Your medical expenses in treating fall-related injuries and health complications
  • Other expenses directly related to dealing or living with your injuries
  • Earnings and job benefits you lost by missing work while healing
  • Future earnings and job benefits your injury will prevent you from obtaining
  • Your physical pain from the injury or medical treatments
  • Your emotional distress from the fall or injuries
  • Your loss of quality life
  • Your inconvenience or inability to engage in daily activities

In some circumstances, Florida law may also entitle you to receive additional, punitive damages from a casino operator. An experienced Clearwater slip and fall lawyer can review your circumstances and explain what you might receive as compensation for your losses.

Special Slip and Fall Liability Rules Apply at Some Clearwater-Area Casinos

In addition to privately-owned, brick-and-mortar gaming establishments, the greater Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg region is also home to two other types of casinos where you might fall and get hurt. One is the Hard Rock casino in Tampa owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida—one of a number of casinos the Tribe operates throughout the Sunshine State. The other is casino cruises that operate in the Gulf of Mexico and dock in the greater Clearwater region.

Special rules govern whether you can recover compensation for the losses you suffered at falls at either of those types of casinos. Here’s a brief explanation.

Liability for Falls at Seminole Tribe-Owned Casinos

The Seminole Tribe is a federally-recognized Indian Tribe—a sovereign nation within the borders of the United States. Property in Florida owned by the Seminole Tribe is, in effect, foreign soil. And a Tribe-owned casino is an arm of that sovereign nation, meaning that when you go there you subject yourself to the Tribe’s laws and regulations.

The Seminole Tribe Has Sovereign Immunity

As a sovereign nation, the Seminole Tribe enjoys the right of sovereign immunity. It cannot be held liable for damages in any court, including a Tribal court, unless the Tribe’s governing body has expressly and clearly waived immunity in writing, such as by passing a law or entering into a contract. Sovereign immunity extends to Seminole Tribal government authorities, Tribe-owned businesses, and Tribal officers and employees acting within the scope of their duties.

What this means is that you can only hold the Seminole Tribe liable for damages you suffered in a fall at a Tribe-owned casino if the Tribe has agreed in writing to let you do it. And it has. But only to a limited extent.

The Tribe’s Limited Waiver of Sovereign Immunity for Falls at Its Casinos

In the 2021 Gaming Compact it signed with Florida, the Tribe waived its sovereign immunity to allow only some people who fall and get hurt at its casino properties to hold the Tribe liable for damages.

Specifically, the Seminole Tribe agreed you could hold it liable for slip and fall damages if (but only if):

  • You entered Tribal land—that is, the casino—for the purpose of playing casino games (including sports betting); and
  • Your fall and injury happened in a Tribe-owned building where casino games were being conducted.

A lot of people appear to get left out of the Tribe’s waiver of sovereign immunity. For example, you may not have the right to hold the Tribe liable for damages if you slipped and fell outside a casino building (in a parking lot, for example) or in a separate building on the property that did not host casino games. You may also not have rights against the Tribe if you came to the property for a reason other than gambling, even if you fell and got hurt on the gaming floor.

The full scope of the Tribe’s waiver under the current Gaming Compact has not yet been tested in Florida courts, so it’s important to hire an attorney who understands this evolving area of Florida and Tribal law.

The Seminole Tribe’s Patron Claims Process

If you do meet the criteria for holding the Seminole Tribe liable for damages after a fall at a Tribal casino, you must also follow a strict Patron Claims process that involves submitting a claim to the Tribe’s risk management department within three years of your injury. You must then work with the Tribe and its insurer for up to one year, in good faith, to settle your claim. You may only sue the Tribe in court if those efforts fail.

Given the complexity and uniqueness of a slip and fall claim against the Seminole Tribe, it’s critical to hire an experienced Clearwater-area slip and fall attorney to handle your case. A skilled lawyer can handle the Patron Claims process on your behalf to ensure you receive fair treatment and the maximum compensation available in your circumstances.

Liability for Falls on a Clearwater-area Casino Boat Cruise

Special rules also apply when you fall and get hurt on a Gulf of Mexico casino cruise operating from docks in the Clearwater region. A unique body of legal principles called maritime law generally governs personal injury claims arising out of incidents on ocean-going vessels.

If you slip and fall while on a Clearwater-area casino cruise, maritime law, not Florida law, usually decides whether the ship’s owner or operator has liability for your losses.

That can make proving liability for a fall somewhat more complicated than a typical slip and fall case. It may require demonstrating that a vessel was unseaworthy or that the ship’s captain or crew failed to fulfill a duty of care to you as a passenger, based on maritime legal traditions.

It may also require navigating any limitation of the ship operator’s liability that you agreed to by purchasing a ticket to board the casino vessel.

Hiring an experienced Clearwater slip and fall lawyer is the most reliable way to protect your rights after falling on a casino cruise boat operating in the central Gulf coast. No matter what rules of law apply to your case, a skilled lawyer can take the steps necessary to protect your interests and get you fair compensation.

Slip and Fall Liability Isn’t Always Limited to Casino Operators

Slip and Fall Liability Isn’t Always Limited to Casino Operators

Regardless of the type of casino where you fell, parties other than a property owner, tenant, or manager can also have liability for your fall. Even if special rules, like those that limit the Seminole Tribe’s liability, apply in your case, you may still have a path to obtaining compensation from these other parties.

That’s why skilled Clearwater slip and fall lawyers pay close attention to what or who caused your injury. Sometimes, they discover evidence proving that a third-party (someone other than the casino operator) may bear at least part of the blame for what happened to you and should pay you damages.

For example:

  • A manufacturer of defective building materials, equipment, or accessories—from flooding to handrails to seats at a gaming table—might owe you compensation if their substandard products contributed to the cause of your fall.
  • An individual might have an obligation to pay compensation for triggering your fall by pushing or tripping you, whether by accident or on purpose.
  • Your medical providers could owe you damages for failing to warn you that medication they prescribed, and that you took before you went to the casino, would make you unsteady on your feet.

Just because a legal obstacle stands in the way of you suing the owner of a casino, in other words, doesn’t mean you have no way to recover damages for your injuries. An experienced attorney can review the facts and determine if other parties can be held accountable for the harm you’ve suffered.

Protect Your Rights

The actions you take after falling and getting hurt at a Clearwater-area casino (no matter which type) can impact your legal rights and financial interests. Contacting an experienced Clearwater slip and fall lawyer is the most reliable way to keep yourself protected. Following the tips below can also help.

Get Medical Care Immediately

Do not wait to seek medical attention after falling at any Clearwater-region casino. Have a qualified medical provider check you over as soon as you can, even if you think you avoided a bad injury. Some severe injuries may not show symptoms immediately and you could put your health, and even your life, in danger if you wait until they do. Don’t take risks—seek medical attention right away.

Notify the Casino

If possible, notify the someone in charge at the casino of your fall right away, even if you think casino employees or others witnessed what happened. Promptly alerting casino management or leadership to your fall helps to build a record of the incident that can help your lawyer claim damages. It also promotes the safety of other casino guests who might fall like you did.

Beware of Agreeing to any In-Kind Payment or Quick Settlement

The operator of the casino where you fell may try to make things right by offering you in-kind compensation like chips, a free meal, tickets to a show, or a comped hotel room.

These might seem like kind gestures or good customer service, but accepting them could put your rights at risk. Beware of any statement by the casino suggesting that an in-kind payment constitutes a settlement of your potential injury claim. Don’t sign anything and contact a lawyer immediately if you have questions.

The same goes for responding to a settlement offer you receive from a casino operator’s liability insurance company. Insurers sometimes contact fall victims to offer them quick cash payments to settle their claims.

But the amount they offer rarely—if ever—covers their full liability for your losses. A skilled lawyer can almost always get you far more money by handling insurance settlement negotiations on your behalf.

Contact a Clearwater Casino Slip and Fall Lawyer Today

You deserve compensation for the losses you suffered in a fall at a Clearwater-area casino. But getting that money can be complicated. To give yourself the best chance of obtaining full payment for the harm you suffered, contact an experienced Clearwater slip and fall lawyer today for your free case evaluation.

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Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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