Rapid City Car Accident Lawyer
Car Accidents in South Dakota
Every year, thousands of people are injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents in South Dakota. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (DPS), 13.2% of all South Dakota drivers were injured in 2020, and another 0.5% were killed. Even more alarming, Pennington County was one of the top two most dangerous counties in terms of overall traffic crashes, second only to Minnehaha County, with 2,290 accidents.
If you or your loved one was involved in an automobile accident, you already know the devastating impact these collisions have, both on victims and their families. What you may not realize is that you could be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, vehicle repair costs, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Filing a Car Accident Claim
South Dakota has several important laws regarding car accident claims that you should know.
First, you should be aware of the state’s statute of limitations, or deadline to file a car accident claim. In South Dakota, you only have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If your loved one died due to a motor vehicle collision, you have three years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim.
You should also know that South Dakota is what is known as a “fault” or “tort” state when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. Unlike in no-fault states, this means that you will likely be unable to recover compensation through your own auto insurance provider after the accident (unless you have elected specific coverage outside of the state’s mandatory minimum liability coverage). Instead, you will need to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. To do this, you will have to prove that they were to blame for the accident.
Proving Fault for a Car Accident
Proving the fault of another driver (or some other party) is a critical element of your car accident claim. Typically, the at-fault party is also the one liable for your damages.
Another motorist may be at fault for the accident if they acted negligently or wrongfully, and this conduct led to the accident. Examples include:
- Texting or using a handheld or device while driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Driving while distracted
- Violating traffic laws and/or rules of the road
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Failing to obey traffic control devices, such as red lights or stop signs
- Unlawful passing
- Driving while fatigued/falling asleep at the wheel
In some cases, the at-fault party might not be another motorist but a third party whose negligence contributed to or caused the accident. For example, if the accident occurred due to defective road design or construction, or if it was worsened by an auto defect, the liable construction company or manufacturer could be held accountable.
In some cases, multiple parties are at fault for a single accident. In South Dakota, you are not barred from filing a personal injury claim if you were partly at fault for the accident. However, under the state’s unique comparative negligence rule, your role in the crash must be “slight” for you to have grounds for a claim. “Slight” fault is open to wide interpretation, and insurance companies often use this to dispute or deny claims. It is very important that you have an experienced car accident attorney on your side who can help you protect your rights.
Damages in South Dakota Car Accident Claims
Car accident victims in South Dakota may be eligible to recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. In short, this means that you will be able to pursue compensation for both the quantifiable losses related to your wreck as well as other types of harm that may be more difficult to assign a dollar value to, such as pain and suffering.
- Economic damages seek to compensate you dollar-for-dollar for losses related to things like medical bills, prescription drug costs, lost wages, vehicle repairs and other property damage, and home modifications to accommodate for an injury-related disability.
- Non-economic damages offer compensation for more subjective types of harm like physical and emotional pain, loss of enjoyment of life, and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Every car accident case is different, therefore it is recommended you speak to an attorney about your case to get a more accurate estimate of the value of your case.
What to Do After a Car Accident
If you are involved in a car accident, there are several steps you should take immediately, as well as in the hours, days, and weeks after the crash:
- Seek Medical Attention: Check yourself and others for injuries and, if necessary, call 911. If you do not require emergency medical care, be sure to still see a doctor or another health care provider as soon as possible after the accident.
- Call the Police: South Dakota law requires you to report any accident resulting in bodily injury, death, or $1,000 in property damage to a single person’s property or $2,000 in property damage total to local law enforcement.
- Exchange Information: You should exchange contact and insurance information with anyone else involved in the accident. Be sure to get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, and insurance provider/policy number.
- Document Everything: Take pictures of the accident, as well as your injuries, and talk to any witnesses who saw what happened. Keep a record of your recovery, including all doctor’s appointments and treatment programs.
- Notify Your Insurance Company: Most auto insurance providers require their policyholders to report accidents within a certain timeframe. Make sure to follow the specifications outlined by your policy to avoid insurance penalties.
- Contact an Attorney: Lastly, to protect your rights and improve your chance of securing maximum compensation for your damages, you should consult with a car accident lawyer right away. We strongly recommend that you do this BEFORE talking to anyone from the other person’s insurance company.
At Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, our Rapid City car accident attorneys are ready to answer your questions and guide you through the legal process. Whether you suffered catastrophic injuries, lost a loved one due to a commercial truck collision, or need help getting your vehicle repaired or replaced, our team of award-winning attorneys can fight for you.
When you choose our firm, you get an entire team of legal professionals dedicated to helping you get back on your feet.