South Dakota has some unique laws when it comes to personal injury and negligence. Some states bar recovery for losses suffered in a car wreck if the victim contributed to their own injuries in any way, while others only bar recovery if a driver was 51% responsible or more. Some states even leave the door open for a claim when the victim was 99% responsible.
South Dakota does things a bit differently. It’s the only state that uses a form of contributory negligence that says that a plaintiff is barred from recovery only when they are “slightly” at fault for their own losses when compared to the defendant’s negligence.
What does that mean, in practical terms?
What it takes to make someone “slightly” more at fault than another driver for a wreck is somewhat nebulous, but one ruling by the state’s Supreme Court held that 30% fault was too much to be considered “slight,” although every case is unique.
Assuming that a victim is held partially responsible for their losses, this state’s version of comparative negligence requires any award to be reduced by the plaintiff’s share of fault. In other words, if a victim suffered losses worth $100,000 but they were found to be 10% at fault for the wreck, they would only receive $90,000, instead.
In essence, all this means car accident victims need to be very careful what they say to other drivers, the authorities and – in particular – the other driver’s insurance company. The wrong statement could lead to questions about the level of fault they bear with the wreck.
Car wrecks are inherently frustrating, and they can create a lot of financial and physical havoc in someone’s life. People get tripped up when they don’t understand how fault affects their potential recovery. Experienced legal guidance can help you avoid getting caught in an insurance trap that leaves you with less than you need or are due.