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Cherokee Tribal Court

Cherokee Tribal Court and Indian Law

If you are a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or find yourself involved in an injury law matter situated in the Qualla Boundary, it is critical that you retain the services of an attorney who is knowledgeable about and experienced in Indian law. The North Carolina Indian Law attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson are knowledgeable about laws pertaining to injury or disability cases relating to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and can assist you with a variety of legal matters. We focus on cases involving personal injury, workers’ compensation, Veterans' Benefits and Social Security Disability.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

There are three tribes of Cherokee Indians recognized by federal law. One of them, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), exists as a sovereign nation in North Carolina. The Qualla Boundary, a land trust supervised by the United States Land Office, covers roughly 100 square miles in western North Carolina. The EBCI has more than 13,000 enrolled members.

Although the Qualla Boundary exists within a single state, these lands and the EBCI members are not strictly subject to North Carolina law. Instead, as with other Indian tribes and reservations, they are governed by a complex and sometimes confusing system of tribal, state, and federal law.

Indian Law Involves Special Knowledge and Experience

Indian nations, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, are deemed “domestic, dependent nations” by the United States, which means that the states have limited authority to regulate Indian nations within their boundaries. The main federal laws that express the special status of Indian tribes are the Indian Reorganization Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act. Under these acts, Indian tribes have the right to establish their own substantive law, and to create tribal courts. However, Indian law often contains complex distinctions, especially when matters involve non-Indians or injuries suffered by non-Indians on reservation lands.

Know Which Law Applies to Your Legal Matter

When you have a legal matter involving the EBCI, the outcome may depend largely upon which laws and procedures will govern your dispute, and where the case will be tried. Legal disputes that involve tribal members or lands that can be subject to different bodies of law include:

  • Personal Injury: These cases involve what is usually termed “negligence,” or a defendant’s failure to exercise due care, and the resulting injuries to a victim. Personal injury cases can involve matters such as car accidents and wrongful death, and aim to provide an injured person or his Estate with money damages to compensate for the harm they have suffered. In personal injury claims occurring in Cherokee, EBCI law will generally apply. Under EBCI law, there is a three-year statute of limitations, or time limit in which to bring your claim. EBCI law also recognizes the rules of comparative negligence, which can limit or reduce a plaintiff’s recovery of compensation according to whether the plaintiff has contributed in some degree to the injury sustained. These standards are similar to the principles that govern negligence cases under North Carolina law, but there are also some substantial distinctions that an attorney knowledgeable about law pertaining to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians can help you navigate.
  • Workers’ Compensation: These cases involve a worker who has been injured or who contracts an occupational disease on the job, and who is seeking compensation for the injury or any resultant disability. In these cases, the applicable law is the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, which governs the system whereby an employer and its insurer are responsible for providing benefits and medical treatment to workers who have been hurt on the job. Employees seeking workers’ compensation are not required to show that their employer was at fault in causing their harm, only that they have suffered a “compensable,” or work-related injury.
  • Social Security Disability: If you have been part of the work force for a specified number of years and have become too sick or injured to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, which are governed by federal law. Among other requirements, to qualify for these benefits you generally must be able to demonstrate that you are unable to perform your former job or any other job due to your medical condition. You must also be able to demonstrate that your disability will last for a minimum of 1 year.
  • Employment Law: If you have questions about a wrongful termination, discrimination in the workplace or wage/hour law questions, you need to talk to the employment law attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson. Different state and federal laws apply to these topics. A paid retainer may be required for an initial office consultation.
  • Veterans Service-Connected Disability Benefits: Many members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee have honorably served in the armed forces, and many have service-connected disabilities. Grimes Teich Anderson is honored to represent veterans in pursuing their claims for service-connected disability compensation before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Contact our experienced veterans benefits attorneys to find out more.

Even when it is clear which law applies, you may still have the flexibility to decide which forum (court) would be most beneficial to your case—federal, state, or tribal. In short, many questions regarding how you should proceed can only be resolved by evaluating the specifics of your case in light of a thorough understanding of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians law. At Grimes Teich Anderson LLP, we have the knowledge and depth of experience to help you determine not only which legal standards apply to your issue, but also to identify the most appropriate forum in which to pursue your case.

Experienced Indian Law Attorneys

If you have a legal problem that involves Indian law, contact the experienced North Carolina Cherokee Tribal Court lawyers at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP for a free consultation toll-free at 800.533.6845, or complete our confidential case evaluation form. With offices in Asheville, Rutherfordton, Waynesville, Spruce Pine, and Franklin, North Carolina, as well as Gaffney and Greenville, South Carolina, we stand ready to help you protect your legal rights and interests.

Each case is different, so not all information on this website, as well as some which may not be provided, will apply to every case. Because the facts and relevant laws are different from case to case, Grimes Teich Anderson does not guarantee that the outcome, results or experiences with one lawyer or one case will be similar to another.

Except for Employment Law Cases, Attorney’s fees are a percentage of the entire recovery and will be deducted before other expenses. In addition to the fee in these cases, Client will be responsible for litigation expenses, which will either be deducted from the recovery or paid by the client. Some Employment Law Cases may be handled on a contingent fee basis and others handled on an hourly basis, where the client is billed for the hours spent on the case. Based on our experience, we will advise you of the most appropriate fee arrangement in Employment Law cases.

Material on this website is for information purposes and is not legal advice.

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