Rapid City Wrongful Death Attorney
South Dakota Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When people, companies, and other entities are careless, negligent, or reckless, they can cause serious injury to others. In the most tragic of cases, these injuries ultimately prove fatal. For surviving family members, knowing a loved one’s death was preventable can make the grieving process that much more complicated and challenging.
At Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, we understand that no amount of financial recovery can “compensate” you for your loss. However, by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable person or party, you can seek fair compensation for unexpected financial losses you have endured as a result of your loved one’s death. You can also fight to recover for intangible losses and obtain a sense of justice that allows you and your family to heal.
Continue reading to learn more, or contact our Rapid City wrongful death attorneys at Beardsley, Jensen & Lee for a free consultation about your potential case: (605) 250-1242.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
First, to bring a wrongful death claim in South Dakota, you must have grounds to do so. The state defines “wrongful death” as any death occurring due to another person or party’s wrongful or negligent conduct or default. In other words, if the person who died (known as the “decedent”) would have had grounds for a personal injury claim had they lived, the death is likely considered wrongful.
Additionally, South Dakota has specific rules regarding who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may bring the claim. If the decedent died without a will/without naming a personal representative, the court will likely appoint one.
The personal representative files the wrongful death claim, but damages are sought on behalf of the estate, as well as the decedent’s surviving:
- Next of kin
When an unborn child dies and the death is considered wrongful, damages can be sought on behalf of the child’s “natural” parents.
What Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
In wrongful death cases, damages are categorized according to who suffered the loss—whether an individual family member or the estate as a whole.
Eligible surviving family members can generally seek compensation for the following damages:
- Loss of financial support/income
- The value of expected reasonable earnings
- The value of household services provided by the decedent
- Loss of affection, comfort, companionship, guidance, and moral support
Additionally, the estate may be able to recover for the following damages:
- Reasonable medical costs related to the decedent’s final treatment/care
- Reasonable funeral/burial expenses
- Lost income/wages and other employment benefits, including expected benefits the decedent would have earned had they lived
The exact value of your case will depend on the factors involved; we encourage you to reach out to our Rapid City wrongful death attorneys today to learn more. We are happy to discuss your case during a free, no-obligation consultation.
Who Is Liable in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Just as in typical personal injury cases, the at-fault party is typically also the liable party in a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, a negligent motorist who causes a fatal car accident could be held legally liable under the South Dakota wrongful death statute. In some cases, however, liability is more complex. This is often true in fatal truck accident claims, as the person who caused the accident (often the truck driver) may not be wholly liable. In such cases, the trucking company or another third party could be partially or entirely liable.
Determining liability is a key element of a successful wrongful death claim. Not only must you bring a claim against the liable party, but their insurance provider will often be the one responsible for paying your damages. We encourage you to work with a skilled wrongful death attorney—like those at Beardsley, Jensen & Lee—who can navigate the complexities of your case while you focus on spending time with your family and moving forward with your life.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in South Dakota?
Most states, including South Dakota, have a statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. The “statute of limitations” is the legal term for the timeline in which you have to file a lawsuit; in South Dakota, the deadline is three years from the date of death. If you fail to file a wrongful death lawsuit within three years, you will lose your opportunity to recover compensation for your damages.
Contact Beardsley, Jensen & Lee to Learn More
Often, wrongful death cases occur alongside criminal proceedings. Regardless of whether or not this is the case for you, remember that the outcome of a criminal case does not necessarily affect the outcome of your civil wrongful death lawsuit. Additionally, even if the at-fault person or party does not face criminal charges, you may still be able to seek compensation for your damages by bringing a wrongful death claim.
If your family member or loved one died due to someone else’s careless, reckless, or wrongful conduct, we encourage you to reach out to our Rapid City wrongful death attorneys as soon as possible to learn how we can help. When you choose our firm, you get the experience and reputation of our entire team of attorneys. We employ a collective, team-based approach that allows us to pool our knowledge, resources, and skills to build powerful cases on behalf of our clients.