In general, personal injury law governs situations in which a person was emotionally, psychologically, and/or physically injured by another party due to an act of negligence, carelessness, intentional wrongful conduct, or a statutory violation.
Some examples of lawsuits that involve personal injury laws include:
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Medical or professional malpractice;
- Products liability injuries;
- Motor vehicle accidents; and/or
- Wrongful death lawsuits.
If you have recently sustained injuries in an accident, you should contact a local personal injury attorney to find out whether you can file a claim for damages under the personal injury laws in your state.
What Kind of Injuries Do Personal Injury Claims Involve?
Personal injury claims may involve all kinds of injuries, including:
- Broken bones, lacerations, or cuts;
- Neck, head, and spinal injuries;
- Emotional distress;
- Pain and suffering;
- Reputational damages;
- Property damages;
- Loss of a loved one; and
- Various other types of injuries that one may sustain in an accident.
As is evident from the above list, a personal injury lawsuit may arise when a person is physically, mentally, and/or emotionally injured by another party. In certain instances, a person may also be able to file a lawsuit to recover legal remedies for damages done to property.
What is Negligence?
Many personal injury cases are based on a claim for negligence. In tort law, negligence is generally defined as the failure to behave with a certain level of care that a person of ordinary prudence would have used under the same or very similar circumstances.
A person who files a personal injury lawsuit based on a claim for negligence will be required to prove the following four elements:
- That a defendant owed the plaintiff a reasonable duty of care;
- That the defendant somehow breached the duty of care that was owed to them;
- That the defendant was both the proximate and actual cause of their injuries; and
- That the plaintiff can quantify the damages they suffered as an actual, verifiable amount of damages.
The defendant in the case will then have the opportunity to rebut the plaintiff’s argument by raising a legal defense. This will either bar the claim or reduce the amount of damages that they owe the plaintiff for their injuries.
What is an Intentional Injury Claim?
An intentional injury claim refers to a type of harm found in tort law. Specifically, it is defined as an act that is done deliberately and which causes harm to another individual and/or property. With intentional torts, it is not necessary for the person who commits a tortious act to do so with an intent to cause harm, only that their actions resulted in injury to another person or property.
One important fact to keep in mind about intentional injury claims is that they can lead to both civil and criminal penalties. Oftentimes, intentional injuries can also be classified as crimes. Some examples include assault, battery, and criminal trespass to land. Thus, if the state decides to file charges against the defendant, then they will need to appear in criminal court where they may be punished accordingly.
On the other hand, if only the plaintiff (i.e., the person who was intentionally injured) brings a claim against the defendant, then the defendant will only face civil penalties, such as a monetary damages award or an injunction.
Again, intentional injury claims will require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant deliberately carried out an act that caused them harm. This is vastly different from personal injury lawsuits based on negligence, wherein it will not matter whether the defendant meant to commit the act on purpose or not.
What are Some Common Personal Injury Defenses in South Dakota?
Whether a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit will be able to raise a legal defense against the claims or not, will mostly depend on the laws of the jurisdiction hearing the case as well as the facts presented in each individual lawsuit. Thus, the specific personal injury defenses that can be argued in South Dakota will vary on a case-by-case basis.
Generally speaking, however, some common personal injury defenses that may be used in a personal injury lawsuit in South Dakota include:
- That the statute of limitations for a particular claim has tolled or expired;
- The plaintiff failed to prove the elements of their claim;
- The plaintiff lacked sufficient evidence to prove their claim;
- The plaintiff assumed the risk of harm;
- The plaintiff contributed or was partially at fault for their injuries (note that South Dakota has a unique rule which will be discussed in further detail below);
- The defendant did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff or did not breach the duty of care that they owed the plaintiff; and/or
- The defendant did not intend to commit the act that led to the injury or the plaintiff consented to the act that led to their injury.
Does South Dakota Have Any Unique Personal Injury Laws?
The crux of most personal injury lawsuits rests on the issue of negligence, namely, whether the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was negligent and to what degree. Personal injury lawsuits in South Dakota are unique in that it is the only state in the country that provides for a modified version of pure comparative fault.
Specifically, South Dakota’s Codified Laws on comparative negligence state that a plaintiff will not be prevented from recovering damages if they can prove that their contributory actions were “slight in comparison with the negligence of a defendant.” In other words, South Dakota will allow a plaintiff to collect a damages award if they can demonstrate that they were only “slightly” negligent in causing their own injuries.
This is not only a very difficult percentage for a plaintiff to measure, but there is also no clear percentage set under the laws in South Dakota. While many plaintiffs will cite to an old case wherein the South Dakota Supreme Court found that contributory negligence of greater than thirty percent is more than slight, this may change in accordance with the facts of each individual case.
Accordingly, both parties should discuss this unique state law with their respective South Dakota personal injury attorneys.
Should I Hire a South Dakota Personal Injury Lawyer if I’ve Been Injured?
The thought of dealing with a personal injury lawsuit after having suffered a serious harm or loss may seem overwhelming. This is especially true in situations where the law may not be clear or when multiple legal issues exist in connection with a single injury. Therefore, if you and/or a loved one have been injured in an accident, then you should strongly consider contacting a South Dakota personal injury lawyer for further legal advice.
An experienced South Dakota personal injury lawyer will already be familiar with the relevant laws in your state and the various legal issues that can arise in such cases. Your lawyer will be able to review the facts of your case and can determine whether you have a viable claim or not. Your lawyer will also be able to discuss the types of damages you could receive if you win your case as well as the chances of your case being successful.
Additionally, if you do not want to go to trial, but still wish to recover some form of damages for your injuries, your lawyer can recommend other options for legal recourse. They can also provide guidance on which option may be best suited to your circumstances. On the other hand, if you do want to pursue a trial, then your lawyer will be able to provide legal representation in court.