Personal injury refers to an area of law whereby a person, who has suffered a physical or emotional injury, or both, can seek compensation from the party or entity responsible for causing the injury or the chain of events that led to it. The alleged party also must have failed to exercise a certain standard of care that was owed to the injured claimant before the law imposes an obligation to recompense the victim.
The law recognizes a number of personal injury causes of action, including medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, premises liability, dog bite or animal attacks, product liability and wrongful death. Each state has its own laws and evidentiary rules governing how and when such claims may be made and the damages that you as an injured claimant may seek to recover.
In What Jurisdiction Will I File My Claim?
The South Dakota Circuit Courts are the main courts that handle the bulk of personal injury claims and are considered courts of general jurisdiction. For injury claims that do not exceed claimed damages of $12,000, these are heard and considered in the Magistrate Courts. You must also file in the county where either the injury occurred or where the defendant is residing.
The South Dakota Statute of Limitations
Statutory law limits you on the length of time you have to file a personal injury claim in the appropriate court. In South Dakota, you have three years from the date of your injury to file your claim, though you only have two years to file a medical malpractice suit. In product defect or liability claims, you also have a three-year deadline, but it may be extended to three years after the injury should have been reasonably discovered through operation of the discovery rule.
For minors or those under the age of 18, the statute of limitations is tolled, or paused, until the individual turns 18, but the claim must nonetheless be brought within one year. For medical malpractice claims, however, a minor under 6 years of age has two years to file. After 6 years of age, you have three years from the date of injury to file.
Is South Dakota a Comparative Negligence State?
South Dakota has a unique comparative fault statute in personal injury cases, whereby if your comparative negligence in causing your injuries was only slight as compared to the defendant, you are not barred from compensation. There is no determination of percentage of fault codified in the law that defines "slight," as it apparently is left to the trier-of-fact to decide if your degree of fault was slight or not.
What is the Discovery Process?
Whenever you file a personal injury claim in court, you and the defendant undergo a discovery process in which your attorney and the lawyer for the defendant request and exchange documents and interrogatories. Interrogatories are a series of written questions, either in a court-approved form or which are specially drafted, to uncover facts about the accident, insurance information, your employment history and damages allegations. Depositions are typically taken of you, the defendant, any factual witnesses and treating physicians, as well as of any other experts. The defense is entitled to require you to undergo a medical and/or mental examination by a specialist of its own choosing.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in South Dakota
The overwhelming majority of injury claimants recover substantially more compensation if they are represented by a personal injury lawyer, even considering the legal fees involved. Contact a South Dakota personal injury attorney to evaluate your claim and to protect your legal interests.