Civil Litigation Attorney in South Dakota

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 What Is a South Dakota Civil Litigation Attorney?

A South Dakota civil litigation attorney is an attorney who practices federal and state civil laws in civil court. This is opposed to a criminal attorney, who practices criminal laws in a criminal court.

Civil laws refer to state or federal non-criminal laws that address the wrongful behaviors of one party, which result in injury or harm to another private party. Civil laws also address other civil disputes between two private parties, such as family issues, theft matters, contract disputes, and property disputes, to name a few. Civil laws also address issues related to probate, guardianship, and estate planning.

In general, most civil law cases that are heard in South Dakota courts involve either tort cases or family law matters. In South Dakota, a tort case is an actionable civil filing for personal injury or loss inflicted by another private party. The agency that is responsible for handling these civil lawsuits against persons, public, and private establishments is the state judiciary.

In general, tort cases in South Dakota are a result of a person or private party’s negligence, intentional wrongdoing, or strict liability. Importantly, if a person in South Dakota is damaged personally or financially, the law grants them of the tortious act the legal right to civilly sue the person or party who harmed them.

Examples of common tort cases that are heard in South Dakota civil courts that pertain to civil laws include cases such as automobile accidents, premises liability matters, defective product cases, theft cases, or fraud cases, to name a few.

As noted above, the other type of civil cases that make up a majority of South Dakota’s civil court caseload are cases that involve family law matters, such as:

  • Issues that involve disputes regarding visitation and custody of children;
  • Issues that involve disputes regarding spousal maintenance or alimony;
  • Issues that involve disputes regarding child support;
  • Issues involving a minor or adult guardianship;
  • Issues involving the loss or termination of parental rights;
  • Issues involving paternity and adoption;
  • Issues involving child abuse and child neglect matters.

When to Hire a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Generally speaking, if you are actively involved in a civil lawsuit, it is highly recommended that you consult with and hire an attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. Further, if you have a legal issue that you believe may necessitate a civil lawsuit, you are also advised to consult with and hire an attorney as soon as possible.

Consulting with an attorney early on will ensure that you do not miss an important deadline or have legal issues arise later on in your lawsuit. For example, there are state deadlines known as statutes of limitations that you must understand and abide by when filing your civil lawsuit. If you miss these deadlines, then your case will be barred from being brought.

An experienced local South Dakota lawyer will be familiar with South Dakota’s civil laws and statutes, as well as all laws that are applicable to your specific case. An attorney will also be able to ensure that you meet any required statute of limitations deadlines for filing your civil suit.

What to Expect from Your Civil Law Attorney?

As far as what you can expect from your civil law attorney, you should always expect your attorney to keep you well informed of your case. In other words, you should expect your civil attorney to communicate all settlement options regarding your case, provide you with regular billing statements, and manage your case on a day-to-day basis.

In addition to being communicative, you should also expect your civil law attorney to be able to represent you during all the steps of your lawsuit. In general, an attorney will be able to represent you throughout all of the following phases of a lawsuit:

  • Pre-lawsuit Phase: During this phase, you and your attorney will meet at a consultation where the attorney will get a general understanding of the legal issues and facts of your case.
    • Should you choose to hire the attorney after the consultation, the attorney may then attempt to resolve your case without the necessity of filing a lawsuit, such as by sending a demand letter to the opposing party;
    • If your attorney is unable to resolve your case without filing a civil lawsuit, they will then draft the necessary lawsuit and properly serve it on the defendant;
  • Pre-trial Phase: After your lawsuit has been filed and served, your attorney may then conduct discovery, if necessary.
    • Discovery is the formal process by which one party serves requests for information or requests for the production of evidence upon the other party or parties involved in the lawsuit in order to gather information to support your lawsuit.
    • Your attorney will also be able to represent you at any in-person hearings prior to a final trial, such as handling pre-trial motions;
  • Trial Phase: If your case is not settled prior to trial, then your lawyer will be able to represent you in court by presenting your legal claims to the judge or jury, questioning witnesses, and otherwise arguing your case;
  • Post-trial Phase: After your case has been concluded, an attorney may still be needed if you need any help collecting damages, disbursing funds, or filing an appeal.

How Much Does a Civil Attorney Cost?

As far as the total cost of a civil attorney, the cost of civil suit lawyers will be based on the exact needs of your case. For example, if your case is a simple will, an attorney may just charge you a one-time flat fee for the entirety of the case.

The following is a list of factors that generally impact the total cost of a civil attorney:

  • The area of law that the attorney practices;
  • The attorney’s level of experience, as well as their reputation in their field;
  • The difficulty of your case;
  • Whether or not the attorney utilizes support staff;
    • If the attorney utilizes support staff, that will likely lower the total cost of your lawsuit, as they bill at a lower rate;
  • The location in which the attorney practices, as different cities have different cost averages
    • For instance, attorneys who practice in Sioux Falls may have different rates from attorneys in smaller cities;
  • The total amount of time that is spent on the lawsuit itself.

When it comes to calculating the total cost of your civil attorney, the amount of time that it will take the attorney to finish your case is by far the most important factor. This is a result of most attorney-client relationships being based on an hourly fee agreement.

In an hourly fee agreement, an attorney agrees to take on a client’s case based on the client paying them their hourly fee as they complete work on the case. Importantly, an attorney will generally require the client to make a deposit, known as a retainer, before they ever begin work on the case.

For example, an attorney may require an upfront retainer of $3,000. The attorney will then work the case, such as conducting discovery to gather evidence, attending court hearings, drafting motions, drafting pleadings, and taking depositions of key witnesses.

If the attorney’s hourly fee is $300 per hour, then the retainer would be depleted after 10 hours of work on the case. As such, the time needed to finish a case is the most important factor in determining the total cost of a civil attorney. Once again, support staff may stretch out a retainer for a longer period of time.

Do You Need a Civil Attorney?

If you are actively involved in a civil lawsuit in South Dakota, or if you are planning to file a civil lawsuit as a result of legal issues that you are facing, then it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced civil litigation attorney in South Dakota as soon as possible.

An experienced civil litigation attorney will be able to help you understand the state or federal laws that are applicable to your specific case. An attorney will also be able to help you determine your best course of legal action. An attorney can also answer any questions that you may have regarding your case. LegalMatch can help you locate an attorney in your area and set up a consultation with them.

As mentioned above, an experienced attorney will be knowledgeable about South Dakota’s civil laws, case law, and state and federal civil procedure. As such, an attorney will be able to represent you throughout the entire legal process, which was discussed above. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent your interests in court, as needed.

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