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About South Dakota’s Comparative Fault Insurance System

Oct 11, 14

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety states in their annual Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Summary that there were 16,620 motor vehicle accidents reported in 2013. Unfortunately, the heartache, injury or even loss that results from a car accident is usually only multiplied by issues with an insurance provider. That’s why the decision to retain a personal injury lawyer after an auto accident is so important. An experienced attorney will know how to best represent and defend your personal injury rights to get you the compensation you need and deserve.

According to the law, vehicle drivers must exercise “reasonable care under the circumstances.” Whoever is determined to be at fault in a collision bears the responsibility of negligence, and that person or company will typically have to pay for the damage and injury they caused. An automobile accident can cause serious physical, emotional and financial consequences. Injuries can leave you unable to work and prevent you from enjoying life. As a result, fault is a critical component in any car accident claim.

South Dakota is the only state to use a modified version of a pure comparative fault system based on slight/gross negligence (S.D.C.L. § 20-9-2). Under this system, a plaintiff may be prevented from legal recourse if it is determined that the plaintiff’s contributory negligence is more than “slight” in comparison to the defendant’s negligence. For decades, this slight/gross comparative fault rule has been criticized because of how challenging it is to define a standard for “slight” and “gross” negligence. In the case of Wood v. City of Crooks (S.D. 1997), the South Dakota Supreme Court held that contributory negligence of 30 percent is more than slight, as a matter of law, thus barring the plaintiff any recovery. 

At the Janklow Law firm, our personal injury attorneys have more than 50 years of extensive experience with motor vehicle accidents and insurance contract law. Meeting with our premier legal team sooner rather than later will ensure that the proper steps are taken to reach a fair personal injury compensation agreement with the insurance company.

In the event of a loved one’s death as a result of a car accident, an attorney can help you and your family file a wrongful death claim to safeguard lawful compensation for medical and funeral costs, loss of income, lost companionship, pain and suffering.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a motor vehicle collision, contact one of our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation about your accident.

It is great to work with the attorneys at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah. They always provide excellent advice and service that is second to none.

Mike Miller | former NBA player

The lawyers at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah are consistently ranked as the top business lawyers in the state. Our business can always count on them to aggressively fight for our rights and provide straight-forward advice on complex issues.

Mark McNeary | Primrose Retirement Communities, LLC

Lawyers from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah regularly participate in legal education by judging intramural student skills competitions; helping prepare our nationally competitive litigation skills teams; serving or leading the South Dakota State Bar's Law School Committee; and, from time to time , providing guest lecturers. The Law School is grateful for the generous participation of lawyers like those from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah.

Tom Geu | former Dean, USD School of Law