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South Dakota Car Accident Compensation Laws

Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in South Dakota, which makes familiarity with South Dakota car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what you need to know about South Dakota car accidents, including what you should do after an accident and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:

  • Don't leave the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
  • Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
  • Call the South Dakota highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police report or accident report
  • Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
  • Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security footage, if applicable
  • Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
  • Get checked out by a doctor

You can and should consider doing all of this before you think about bringing a personal injury lawsuit.

South Dakota Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance

Below is a table summarizing key sections of South Dakota's car accident compensation laws, followed by explanations of important aspects of the laws.

Statute of Limitations

Three years for personal injury (S.D.C. § 15-2-14(3)); six years for property damage (S.D.C. § 15-2-13(4)); one year for claims against the state (S.D.C. § 21-32-2); 180 days to give notice of claim against a public entity (S.D.C. § 3-21-2)

Limits on Damages $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases (S.D.C. § 21-3-11)
Other Limits Slight/gross negligence rules prohibit recovery for anything other than slight negligence; comparative negligence rule reduces damages for contributory negligence (S.D.C. § 20-9-2)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Economic vs. Non-economic Damages

Usually, there are two types of damages to consider after you've been in a car accident: economic and non-economic. While economic damages are the objective losses you've incurred as a result of your injury or damage to property, non-economic damages refer to the more subjective costs of an accident, like emotional distress and the loss of spousal companionship.

Economic damages typically include:

  • Car repairs or replacement
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of affection or companionship

"Comparative Negligence" Rules in South Dakota

Like many states, South Dakota is an "at fault" state, which means you must prove that the other driver was at fault for causing the accident in order to recover damages. However, fault in a car accident isn't always black and white, and you may still be compensated even if you were partly to blame for the accident.

South Dakota is the only state that follows the "slight-gross negligence" rule, which states that you may recover damages as long as your negligence was slight in comparison with that of the other driver.

Additionally, according to the modified comparative negligence standard, any damages that are awarded will be reduced in proportion to the degree that you were at fault. For example, if you were 5% to blame and the other driver was 95% at fault, you may still file a lawsuit, but an award of $10,000 will be reduced by $500.

Limits on Damages in South Dakota

In South Dakota, there is no cap on most damages. However, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $500,000. Additionally, all claims are time-sensitive and have deadlines for filing your lawsuit in court. These are known as "statutes of limitations." In South Dakota, you have three years to file most personal injury claims, and six years for most property damage claims.

Seeking Compensation for a South Dakota Car Accident? A Lawyer Can Help

South Dakota's unique "slight/gross negligence" standard can lead to harsh results, as someone who is a little more than slightly responsible for the accident is completely barred from recovering any damages. Additionally, it is inherently difficult to define and quantify this standard. What qualifies as "slight" as opposed to "just barely more than slight?"

Learn more and evaluate the strength of your claim by contacting a South Dakota injury attorney today.

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