South Dakota Car Accident Law, Lawsuit Settlements, Lawyers

A Review of South Dakota Car Accident Laws, Lawsuit Settlements and Lawyers

South Dakota (along with North Dakota) may have a reputation as consisting of untamed wilderness, but Americans have definitely left their impression on the landscape. South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, an attraction that draws thousands of visitors from across the United States each and every year. Despite being a tourist draw for lovers of national monuments and Native American culture alike, South Dakota’s population is only about 844,000, according to a 2013 census. This makes the state the 46th most populous state, just ahead of Alaska and North Dakota.

The small population does not mean that the roads of South Dakota are safe. In fact, because of the sparsity of people in the state, many times an individual will need to drive on roads that are not well-lit or well-maintained in order to reach his or her destination. This, coupled with the fact that law enforcement is also sparse in some parts of South Dakota, mean that those who live in South Dakota or travel through the state may find themselves the victim of a car accident collision.

South Dakota Car Crash Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s own statistics show that in 2015 over 130 people were killed in South Dakota car crashes. This is approximately ten individuals every month. About one-third of these crashes involved at least one driver whose blood or breath alcohol concentration was 0.08 or greater. Pennington County and Minnehaha County had the highest number of traffic fatalities throughout the state in 2015 (12 and 8, respectively).

Aside from alcohol, other causes of these fatal traffic collisions included:

  • Distracted driving, which can include texting while driving, eating while driving, or even attempting to set up a GPS device while driving. Essentially, any action or activity that takes the driver’s attention off of the road and the task of driving is a distraction that can make a car accident more likely.
  • Mechanical failure, or car or car part defects, also can contribute to a car crash. When a car’s steering system or braking system is not functioning properly, the driver of such a car may not be able to avoid a collision.
  • Inattentive or reckless driving, which consists of intentionally avoiding paying attention to road signs, speed limit signs, and other devices and signs designed to regulate the flow of traffic. Whether a driver is distracted and misses these signs or sees these signs and simply chooses to ignore them is irrelevant – in either event the risk of a car crash is increased.

These examples of careless behavior do not always result in a fatality. Sometimes a driver or passenger suffer serious injuries but escape the incident with their lives. These injury victims may have a long, expensive road to recovery ahead of them. Obtaining compensation through a South Dakota car accident attorney can help alleviate some of the financial strain these injury victims might otherwise face.

South Dakota is a “Fault-Based” Insurance State

South Dakota makes it mandatory for drivers to carry an active auto insurance policy with policy limits that are sufficient to compensate an injured person in the event the driver negligently or carelessly causes that person’s injuries. South Dakota is a “fault-based” insurance state, which means injury victims generally pursue claims of compensation against the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company.

South Dakota is unique in its treatment of injury victims whose own careless behavior contributes to their injuries. If the injury victim is determined to have acted with anything greater than slight negligence, then the injury victim is not able to pursue a claim for compensation against the other at-fault driver. What constitutes “slight” negligence is often left to a judge or jury to decide on a case-by-case basis.

South Dakota’s Statute of Limitations for Injury Cases

South Dakota Law Sec. 15-2-14 imposes a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury and car crash claims. Injury victims have three years from the date of their car crash within which to file a lawsuit for compensation. (Although there are some exceptions to this general prohibition, each exception is very fact specific and apply only in a very small number of cases). It is important that an injury victim file his or her claim as quickly as possible following a car crash – failing to do so and missing the statute of limitations can result in the victim’s lawsuit being dismissed.

Help with Your South Dakota Car Crash

Contact a South Dakota car accident lawyer as soon as possible following your accident in order to protect your legal rights and preserve your ability to seek monetary damages for your losses. Stern Law, PLLC can answer your car accident-related questions and help you investigate and file your claim for damages. Contact Stern Law, PLLC by calling (844) 808-7529 to discuss your car accident case today.

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