Accidents involving trucks tend to be more devastating than those involving smaller vehicles, but the truck driver may not always be at fault. There are a number of issues that will determine who is ultimately liable for accident.

A fatal accident in South Dakota involving a car that passed through a stop sign resulted in the deaths of three people.

Two elderly men and a young girl die after hitting a truck

The South Dakota Highway Patrol initially responded to a crash near the township of Scotland involving a pickup truck hauling a trailer and another vehicle. They believe the driver of the car ran through a stop sign at the intersection of highways 26 and 45 and struck the truck. There was no stop sign at the intersection for the traffic in the opposite direction on the street where the truck was proceeding forward.

The driver of the truck was a 26 year old male who sustained minor injuries. However, all three passengers in the car suffered from injuries that would eventually prove to be fatal. A 64 year old male and 10 year old girl died at the scene from the impact, while the 72 year old male driver was airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital and died days later from his injuries.

Issues after a fatal accident

The main issues brought up by this accident include determining fault, who will be responsible for paying for damages related to the crash, and how surviving family members can file a case in place of the people who died. There are a number of different rules and legal principles based on state law that apply to these actions.

Wrongful Death

After a fatal accident, certain family members are eligible to file a lawsuit on behalf of a deceased person with the help of their attorney. This is called a wrongful death action, and every state has some kind of wrongful death laws on the books. Generally speaking, a spouse or surviving children will be able to sue the person responsible for the accident for things such as funeral costs, medical expenses, lost wages, and the value of other labor and services the deceased person could have provided if they had lived. These amounts can be very large depending on the age and earning capacity of the victim.

A wrongful death case is not a criminal case. Criminal charges are ultimately the decision of the local government through police and prosecutors. Whether a criminal case is filed or not related to someone’s death, the family can still file a civil wrongful death case that will be treated separately. A local lawyer can provide further information about how to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit and prevail under South Dakota’s relevant statutes.

South Dakota’s negligence laws

Fault in every accident is decided by a jury after a trial, and their decision must be based on the state’s negligence laws. Negligence is the legal term for when the carelessness of one person or business causes some kind of tangible harm to one or more victims.

South Dakota has some very unique negligence laws that are based around the concepts of “slight negligence” and “gross negligence.” This means that in most cases, the defendant will need to have a much higher level of fault than the plaintiff if they hope to collect any money. This is different from most other states who either use comparative negligence to divide the fault in any accident between everyone involved, or contributory negligence which totally bars a plaintiff from recovery if they are even slightly at fault.

For a plaintiff to prevail in the lawsuit, their level of negligence must have been minimal or the accident must be entirely the defendant’s fault. If the plaintiff is slightly at fault and they win the lawsuit, the amount of damages they recover will be reduced proportionately to their level of fault. If the plaintiff is found to be more than “slightly” at fault for the accident they will be totally unable to recover any money at all. If multiple parties are responsible for the accident, they can all be sued and held responsible for their contribution to the damages experienced by the plaintiff. The same negligence standard will still apply, even to multiple defendants.

This is actually one of the most confusing sets of negligence laws in the entire U.S., so it is important to make sure you are speaking with a personal injury lawyer who is both licensed in the state of South Dakota and familiar with these laws before allowing them to take your accident case.

Get help from local attorneys after an accident

For expert legal representation throughout the state of South Dakota, contact Ogborn, Mihm, and Quaintance, Prof. LLC. They are experts in the field of motor vehicle accidents and cases involving death.

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