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  • Personal Injury in South Dakota

    Personal injury lawsuits arise when someone suffers harm caused by another person's actions. Potential causes include recklessness, malpractice or negligence, or sometimes just a failure to take any action.

    The realm of personal injury lawsuits is broad, and can cover injuries stemming from worker's compensation issues, to medical malpractice, to defective products, to auto accidents. Indeed, car accidents are the leading cause of personal injury lawsuits. And, since this is, this is what we'll talk about.

    What to Do if You're Injured

    If you've been in an accident, it may be difficult to have a clear mind at the time―and even for many days afterward.

    Still, though, it's important to try to remember as much as you can about the accident, and to preserve the evidence.

    If you can, get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone involved, including any witnesses. Don't forget to get the names of any police officers or emergency workers who came to the accident scene.

    Think details, no matter how small.

    This especially goes for the accident itself. Write down everything you can remember immediately before the accident occurred. Think about direction, speed, weather conditions, street names, traffic lights, and signs. Then describe the accident itself―think who, what, where, when, why, and how. Again, think details.

    Also, it's important to have proof of the damages. Take plenty of photographs of the car, the accident scene, the clothes you were wearing, items in the car that were damaged―in short, take pictures of everything that will build evidence for your damage claim.

    Getting Legal Help

    Personal injury cases can be tricky for a layperson to deal with, and the damages caused from an accident can be difficult to determine. This is why some experts feel that, if you are injured, you should get an attorney, especially one with personal injury experience, to represent you.

    The crux of the personal injury case is to determine blame or liability. Once that has been established, the aim is to determine the amount of damages, and require the party at fault to pay for those damages.

    Sometimes punitive damages are awarded when it is found that that the guilty party's actions were so reckless that the injured person should receive compensation beyond their actual determined costs.

    Personal injury attorneys are able to review your case, determine its validity, advise you on how soon you must act, and help ascertain your actual and potential damages. Many times, you won't have to pay for this legal advice unless you are awarded with a favorable judgment.

    Keep in mind that insurance companies are used to dealing with these matters, and have their own, specialized team devoted to these sorts of claims. They may pressure you to take early settlement, which often may not adequately cover your needs, or be near the amount you are entitled to collect.

    If you choose not to get legal help, just be careful in what you say or write to any insurance company representatives or adjusters, as it may be used against you later.

    Also, if you are thinking about filing a claim against the person who injured you, let that person know of your intentions promptly.

    Proving Blame

    In South Dakota, the majority of the time you must prove that the other person failed to use "reasonable care." In other words, they were negligent.

    This means that you need to demonstrate that:

    • The other person had a duty towards you to perform.
    • They failed to do so.
    • This failure caused the injury.
    • You suffered damages from this injury.

    Comparative Negligence

    There's an added wrinkle, though, in South Dakota.

    If you were partly to blame for the accident, the amount of damages you receive will be reduced under the state's comparative negligence law. The reduction will be in accordance with the factor you played. Keep in mind, though, that your role must be a minor one compared to the other party.

    If more than one person is found responsible for your injury, their liability will be determined by how big a role each played in causing your damage.

    Determining Damages

    As we mentioned earlier, determining the amount of damage caused by the accident can be difficult. Take a look at all of the possible damage factors:

    • Car damages (and other items damaged in the accident)
    • Medical expenses (past, current, future)
    • Work time lost (even time lost to see doctors or to have therapy)
    • Possible limits on future earning potential
    • Permanent disfigurement
    • Home-care help (even to perform housework duties that the injured party can no longer perform)
    • Permanent disabilities
    • Emotional distress and its impact on relationships
    • Other costs stemming from the accident

    Time Limits

    In South Dakota, you have three years from the date of the accident to file suit against the other party.

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