Car accidents frequently occur in South Dakota, with 19,464 crashes in 2021. The fatality rate of 1.48 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled showed a 1.63% increase from the 2020 rate of 1.45. Additionally, 4,963 individuals were injured in crashes, an 11.2% increase from 4,462 in the previous year.
While many accidents are unavoidable, some are caused by the negligence or recklessness of drivers. In these cases, South Dakota car accident laws provide a means for victims to seek compensation for their damages and losses. These laws cover a range of issues, from fault and liability to insurance requirements and the statute of limitations.
Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone involved in a car accident in South Dakota, whether as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian.
South Dakota’s Driving Under the Influence Law
According to data from the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, there was an increase in alcohol-related fatalities and injuries in the state from 2020 to 2021, from 51 to 56 and 645 to 689, respectively. This shows a 5.9% increase in alcohol-related fatalities from the previous three-year average. Additionally, these involved 11,197 DUI arrests and 8,290 DUI convictions.
South Dakota’s Driving Under the Influence Law is enacted to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents on the state's roads. The law states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher or while under the influence of drugs.
The penalties for a DUI in South Dakota depend on the number of previous offenses and the BAC level at the time of the arrest. A first-time DUI offense can result in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a license suspension of up to one year.
Repeat offenders face harsher penalties, including longer jail time, higher fines, and longer license suspensions or revocations. If a person is found guilty of a DUI three times within 10 years, it becomes a Class 6 felony with a punishment of two years of imprisonment and a fine of $4,000.
South Dakota’s Seat Belt Law
South Dakota's Seat Belt Law requires all drivers and passengers in a moving motor vehicle to wear a seat belt. The law applies to all passenger cars, pickup trucks, and vans, regardless of the model and year of manufacture.
The law mandates that the vehicle's driver is responsible for ensuring that all occupants under 18 are properly secured with a seat belt or an appropriate child restraint system.
Violating South Dakota's seat belt law can result in a fine of up to $25. A driver who violates this law can be cited and fined for each passenger not wearing a seat belt.
The primary purpose of South Dakota's Seat Belt Law is to reduce the number of severe injuries and fatalities resulting from car accidents. In 2021, 108 individuals were killed and 4,258 were injured while not wearing safety restraints at the time of the accident.
Wearing a seat belt is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect oneself while traveling in a motor vehicle. Drivers and passengers must follow this law to ensure safety on the road.
Child Passenger Restraint Law
The South Dakota Child Restraint Law requires that all children under five and weighing less than 40 pounds be properly secured in a restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle. The law aims to reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities in the event of a car crash.
Child restraint systems can include infant carriers, convertible seats, and booster seats, depending on the child's age and weight. The law requires that child restraint systems meet federal safety standards and are used per the manufacturer's instructions. In addition, the law mandates that the restraint system be properly installed and securely fastened to the vehicle.
Fortunately, there were no fatalities involving child restraints in 2021, but there were still 53 children injured. A violation of this law is considered a petty offense, which can lead to a fine of $25. A driver who violates this law can be cited and fined for each child who is not properly restrained. Using a child restraint system can significantly reduce the risk of serious injuries or fatalities in the event of a car accident.
South Dakota’s Texting and Driving Law
The South Dakota Texting and Driving Law aims to reduce distracted driving and improve road safety for all drivers. Under it, drivers are prohibited from manually entering, reading, or selecting information on a handheld device while driving. However, the law allows the use of hands-free devices and voice-operated technology.
If a driver is found to have violated this law, they can be fined up to $100. In addition, a driver who violates this law may be subject to a citation and points on their driving record.
By enforcing this law, government officials can reduce distracted driving incidents and keep drivers safe. All drivers must comply with this law and avoid using handheld electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle.
South Dakota’s Speeding Law
The South Dakota Speeding Law sets out the state's rules and regulations for speeding; drivers must obey posted speed limits and adjust their speed to reflect changing road and weather conditions.
The speed limits in South Dakota depend on road type and location. The speed limit on urban interstates is 75 miles per hour, while on rural interstates it is 80 miles per hour. On two-lane highways, the speed limit is typically 55 miles per hour, while in urban areas, it can be as low as 25 miles per hour.
The penalties increase with the speed of the violation, with higher speeds resulting in greater fines and more severe consequences. For example, a driver going 1 to 5 miles per hour over the speed limit may receive a warning or a fine of up to $85. Moreover, a driver going 26 miles per hour over the speed limit may receive a fine of up to $200, possibly even jail time, and a license suspension.
In addition to these penalties, speeding can seriously affect road safety. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, speeding was a factor in 1,785 crashes in 2022.
South Dakota’s Hit and Run Law
The South Dakota Hit and Run Law sets out the rules and penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident without stopping to provide assistance or exchange information.
Drivers involved in an accident must remain at the scene and provide reasonable assistance to injured parties, as well as provide their name, address, and vehicle registration information to other parties involved in the accident.
If a driver leaves the scene of an accident without providing assistance or exchanging information, he or she may be subject to criminal charges. Depending on the severity of the offense, a hit and run can be classified as a misdemeanor or felony.
Leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of less than one year in prison and a $2,000 fine, while hit-and-run incidents resulting in death or severe injury are considered a Class 6 felony with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and/or a $4,000 fine. Lastly, drivers who hit an unattended vehicle can be penalized with 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
In addition to the legal penalties, hit-and-runs can have serious consequences for accident victims. Injured parties might not receive the medical attention they need without the responsible driver providing information and assistance. Also, property damage might not be properly addressed.
South Dakota’s Move Over Law
The South Dakota Move Over Law requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching stationary emergency vehicles or tow trucks with flashing lights on the side of the road. These include police vehicles, fire trucks, ambulances, tow trucks, and other service vehicles.
The law protects law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and other roadside workers from accidents caused by passing traffic. If drivers fail to comply, they may be fined and penalized. Violating this law is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $270 and up to 60 days of imprisonment.
South Dakota’s Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
South Dakota drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage to protect themselves and others in the event of an accident. The minimum auto insurance requirements are as follows:
$25,000 per person for bodily injury or death;
$50,000 per accident for bodily injury or death; and
$25,000 per accident for property damage.
Liability insurance is designed to cover the costs of injuries and damages the policyholder might cause to others in an accident. It does not cover their injuries or damages to their own vehicle.
Additionally, all auto insurance policies require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UMI), with $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This insurance will pay for personal injuries caused by an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver.
However, drivers may purchase additional coverage types, such as collision and comprehensive insurance, to protect themselves and their vehicles in the event of an accident or other incidents, like theft or natural disasters.
Note that driving without insurance in South Dakota is illegal and can result in fines of $100 to $500, a 30-day to one-year license suspension, and even 30 days of jail time. In addition, if you are involved in an accident and do not have insurance, you have to pay for others’ damages or injuries, which can be a substantial financial burden.
Review your policy and coverage limits regularly to ensure you comply with South Dakota's minimum auto insurance requirements. If you have questions about the state's requirements or what type of coverage is right for you, consult an insurance professional.
Is South Dakota a Fault State for Insurance Claims?
South Dakota is a fault state for insurance claims, which means that the driver found to be at fault for an accident is responsible for paying for the damages and injuries that result from the accident. Under South Dakota law, drivers must have liability insurance to cover these costs.
In the event of an accident, the at-fault driver's insurance company will be responsible for paying for damages and injuries up to the policy limit. If the damages and injuries exceed the policy limit, the driver may be personally liable for the excess amount.
Since fault is not always clear-cut in an accident, insurance companies may conduct their own investigation to determine who is liable. If the insurance companies cannot agree, the case may go to court for a judge to determine liability.
South Dakota's fault-based system for insurance claims emphasizes the importance of having adequate insurance coverage to protect yourself and others in the event of an accident. If you are not at fault for the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, property damage, and other losses. It is essential to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim, including photos of the accident scene, witness statements, and medical records.
An attorney can also help you navigate the complex legal issues that may arise if multiple parties are involved in the accident or if the accident involves a commercial vehicle or government entity.
Is South Dakota a Comparative Negligence State for Car Accident Lawsuits?
South Dakota follows the comparative negligence rule in determining fault in personal injury cases, including car accident lawsuits. Under this rule, damages are determined according to each party's degree of fault in causing the injury. So even if the plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident, he or she could still recover damages from the defendant. However, the amount may be reduced by his or her percentage of fault.
This law states that the court or jury must determine each party's percentage of fault and apportion damages accordingly. It also says that if the plaintiff's fault exceeds the defendant's, the plaintiff cannot recover damages.
If you are involved in a car accident, and the court determines that you were 25% at fault for the accident, the other driver is found to be 75% at fault. Under the comparative negligence rule, your damages award would be reduced by your percentage of fault. In this case, you would only be able to recover 75% of the $100,000, which would be $75,000. The remaining 25%, or $25,000, would be attributed to your degree of fault.
South Dakota’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in South Dakota is three years from the accident date. Personal injuries can include physical injuries, emotional trauma, and other harm suffered due to the car accident.
If you decide to file a personal injury claim, it is crucial to do so within the three-year statute of limitations. If you miss this deadline, you will be barred from filing a claim and seeking compensation for your injuries.
Additionally, the statute of limitations depends on the type of claim being pursued. Individuals seeking compensation for damage to their vehicle or other property due to a car accident have up to six years to file a claim. For claims against the state, including those related to car accidents involving state-owned vehicles, the statute of limitations is one year. Additionally, if you file a lawsuit against a public entity, such as a city or county, notice of your claim must be given within 180 days of the accident. After these periods, the injured individuals can no longer pursue legal action for damages.
What Is the Average Settlement for South Dakota Car Accident Lawsuits?
The average settlement for car accident lawsuits in South Dakota can vary widely, depending on the severity of injuries, the extent of property damage, and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
Damages from an auto accident can be divided into economic and non-economic categories. Economic damages include medical costs, lost wages, and property damages, while noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment, emotional distress, loss of services, and companionship. There is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, but no specific cap on damages for car accident claims.
If you have been involved in a car accident in South Dakota and are seeking compensation for your injuries or property damage, talk to an attorney to discuss settlement options.
Remember that attorney fees in personal injury cases are typically based on a contingency fee agreement. Moreover, the contingency fee percentage depends on the case's complexity. Plaintiffs must carefully review and negotiate the terms of the contingency fee agreement with their attorney before signing.
Legal Resources for South Dakota Car Accident Victims
The State Bar of South Dakota’s Access to Justice Program strives to ensure that car accident victims and others can access legal services when needed.
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety's Crash Assistance Program assists individuals and families affected by serious traffic accidents. The program helps them by providing resources and guidance throughout the recovery process.
The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation provides general guidance on auto insurance in the state. It includes information on the various types of auto insurance available in South Dakota, including liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage.
The South Dakota Comprehensive Driver's Manual covers various topics, including traffic laws, driving techniques, and safe driving practices. The manual is regularly updated to reflect changes in state laws related to driving.
SD511 is South Dakota's official travel information website, providing up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic incidents, and construction projects throughout the state. It shows real-time information on road closures, accidents, construction projects, and traffic delays. It also provides access to traffic cameras and road weather information, informing travelers about weather conditions and traffic patterns along their routes.
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