Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Dakota?

Coping with the death of a loved one is never easy, but it can be especially challenging if the loss was unanticipated. And if it turns out the fatal injury or illness was entirely preventable, this fact would only intensify your grief.

Should this be the case, your family may be able to sue those who were responsible for the deceased’s untimely passing. While taking legal action won’t bring your loved one back, it could yield the funds needed to maintain your financial security in the wake of the loss.

In South Dakota, the following parties may be entitled to compensation following a wrongful death:

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse;
  • The deceased’s surviving children;
  • The deceased’s surviving parents; and
  • The deceased’s rightful heirs according to the laws of intestate succession.

It’s important to note, however, that those who are entitled to the potential payout may not actually be the ones who can bring the case. In South Dakota, a wrongful death suit can only be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate.

If the victim made arrangements prior to passing, he or she should have assigned the role to a friend, loved one, or acquaintance in the process. If the individual who was named is unwilling or unable to settle the estate—or if there is no will—the probate court will appoint someone to serve as the personal representative. In addition to wrapping up the deceased’s affairs, the personal representative will be responsible for taking legal action on behalf of eligible beneficiaries.

How Long Does the Personal Representative Have to File a Wrongful Death Suit?

Generally speaking, filing a lawsuit is a last resort for wrongful death claimants. If the liable party proves uncooperative, however, negotiating for a fair settlement may prove impossible.

Should this be the case, the personal representative will have a limited amount of time to file the lawsuit. South Dakota’s standard statute of limitations for wrongful death suits is three years. That means most families have three years from the date on which the victim died to file suit.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that there are a few exceptions to the filing deadline. If you intend to take action against a government entity, for example, you may have just one year to commence the proceedings.

Regardless of which deadline applies to your case, it’s wise to consult an attorney as soon as possible. At least some of the evidence you will need to build a strong case could be time-sensitive. Calling a lawyer right away will give your legal team the opportunity to obtain such evidence while it’s still available.

Speak with a Rapid City Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

At Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, PLLC, we understand the stress of losing a family member unexpectedly. If your loved one died in an entirely preventable and totally unanticipated way, we can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

Our compassionate team has won more than $15 million in settlements and trial verdicts. Call (605) 777-7466 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney in Rapid City.

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