This article examines a few key personal injury laws in South Dakota. Whether you decide to file a lawsuit in South Dakota's court system, or make a claim with an insurance company, you might want to keep these laws in mind.
Like other states, South Dakota has its own deadlines, known as "statutes of limitations," for filing any kind of lawsuit in court. In South Dakota, you have three years to file a lawsuit over an accident or personal injury. The clock starts running on the date of the accident or incident that caused the harm.
It's very important to know when the statute of limitations on your case ends and to make sure your suit gets filed before that deadline. If you file after the three-year window has closed, the South Dakota court system will almost certainly refuse to hear your case.
You can read the full text of South Dakota's statute of limitations for personal injury online at South Dakota Codified Laws Section 15-2-14.
South Dakota also has its own "comparative fault" laws for handling cases in which an injured person shares some of the fault for the accident or injury. If you are injured in an accident in South Dakota and are found to be partially at fault, the amount of compensation you can recover from other at-fault parties is reduced by a percentage that is equal to your share of fault.
Here's an example. Suppose that you're crossing the street one day when a driver hits you. At the time, you were crossing against a "Don't Walk" sign. In court, it's decided that you are 40 percent at fault for the accident, and the driver is 60 percent at fault, since he was speeding. Your total damages award is also determined to be $10,000.
Here, South Dakota's comparative fault rule applies to reduce your $10,000 award by 40 percent, which is equal to the amount of fault assigned to you. Since 40 percent of $10,000 equals $4,000, that amount is subtracted from the total, leaving you with a reduced damages award of $6,000.
In South Dakota, the same basic calculation applies no matter how much fault is assigned to you. For instance, if you had been found to be 99 percent at fault in the example above, you would still technically be able to collect 1 percent of the total damages, or $100, from the other at-fault party.
South Dakota law requires the state's courts to apply this comparative fault rule in any personal injury case. Insurance adjusters may bring up the comparative fault rule during insurance settlement negotiations too, so it's wise to be prepared.
There is no specific statute in South Dakota governing personal injury liability for dog bites. Owners will be held liable for injuries caused by their dog (or other animal) if the injured party can show that the owner "should have known" the animal was dangerous. This is known as the "one bite" rule.
Caps on personal injury damages work to limit the amount of compensation an injured person can receive from another at-fault party. Many states have caps on certain types of damages, like pain and suffering damages or punitive damages.
In South Dakota, damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $1,000,000, including both economic and non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages. Similarly, damages in product liability cases are capped at $1,000,000. South Dakota does not currently cap punitive damages.
If your accident or injury case involves the potential liability of a government employee or government agency, you'll have to follow a different set of rules than you would in an ordinary personal injury case. In South Dakota, you have one year to file a claim against a government agency or employee.
Chapter 21-32 of the South Dakota Codified Laws, "Remedies Against the State," contains the full text of key South Dakota laws that apply to injury claims against the state or local government. Our section on Injury Claims Against the Government also contains plenty of background information on these types of claims.