Car Accident Attorneys in Rapid City
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Proving Liability in Car Accident Cases
Car accidents are one of the most common types of accidents that occur in the United States. Despite efforts to make the roads safer and improve driver attention, many drivers fail to follow the law. At our firm, we are committed to evaluating all of the facts of your case, including accident reports, photos from the scene, and other evidence. We use this to build a personal injury case illustrating the cause of the accident and therefore the other driver's responsibility.
A few of the common causes of car accidents include:
- Driving over or below the speed limit
- Failing to signal
- Driving under the influence
- Disregarding traffic laws
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
In some cases, we may be able to hold a driver liable for reckless driving; for example, a driver who was engaged in street racing or another type of willful disregard for others would be considered reckless.
Most car accident cases are handled using the law of negligence. The insurance company or the responsible driver's attorney may try to show that they were not liable for the accident. Meanwhile, we look for evidence to prove that the other person behaved negligently, operating their vehicle in a way that led to the accident. Proving that the other party failed to use reasonable care is the basis for a successful lawsuit.
Common Car Accident Injuries
When a car accident happens, your body's "fight or flight" instinct kicks in and you experience an adrenaline rush which can mask the symptoms of many injuries. When considering the commotion of an accident scene, the need to interact with police officers, and the overall shock of the situation, you may not realize the full extent of your injuries until hours or even days have passed. It is not uncommon for normal aches and pains to be signs of more substantial injuries below the surface.
Some of the most common injuries suffered in car accidents include:
- Neck and back injuries: The impact of a car accident can cause significant force to be applied to the muscles and ligaments in your neck and back, especially at high speeds. While these tissues are equipped to absorb some force, excessive force can cause them to give way and result in potentially irreversible damage to the spine. Neck and back injuries can sometimes cause "referred pain" or "radiating pain" which manifests in the shoulders or other parts of the body, making it difficult to identify where the actual injury is located. Pay attention to your symptoms and always seek a full medical evaluation at the first sign of discomfort.
- Abdominal / internal injuries: Pain around the chest and stomach after a car accident may be a sign of organ damage or internal bleeding, often due to the force of a seatbelt restraining your body at the time of impact. Internal bleeding can be fatal if left untreated. Any abnormal abdominal pain should be treated seriously and examined by a doctor as soon as possible.
- Knee injuries: Car accidents can cause your knees and legs to strike the steering wheel or other objects at the time of impact, resulting in blunt trauma. Injuries can range from a torn meniscus, torn ACL, fractured patella (knee cap), or a full break of the femur or shin. Injuries of this nature cannot heal on their own and must be surgically repaired.
- Concussions / brain injuries: There is no such thing as a mild brain injury. If you experience regular headaches after a car accident, see a doctor immediately. Headaches can be a sign of several trauma-induced conditions such as whiplash, concussions, or more severe brain damage. Even low-speed collisions can result in concussions due to the immense force of a deploying airbag.
What to Do after a Car Accident
A car accident can be a disorienting experience. While you may be feeling shaken up immediately after a collision, it is important to stay calm and follow certain steps to get the situation under control. What you say and do immediately after a crash can have an impact on your ability to recover compensation.
If you have been involved in a car accident:
- Stop and render aid. Never drive away from the scene of a crash. If anyone is seriously hurt, call 911.
- Call the police. South Dakota law requires you to immediately notify the police after an accident if anyone is injured or killed, if any person suffers more than $1,000 of property damage, if the total property damage is $2,000 or more, or if an unattended vehicle is damaged and the owner cannot be identified.
- Exchange information. Record the license plate numbers, insurance information, and vehicle identification numbers of all involved vehicles. Get the contact information of all involved drivers and passengers as well.
- Take photographs. If you have a camera phone, take photos of all vehicle damage, the resting places of the vehicles in relation to each other, road conditions, traffic signals, and other details of the scene. Take photos of your injuries as well, if you can.
- Do not apologize. While it may seem innocent, saying "I'm sorry" can be seen as an admission of fault and can cause you to be held liable before an investigation is even performed.
- Tell the police your version of what happened. The other drivers will surely tell the police what they think happened. Make sure your version of the events is also included in their report.
- See a doctor immediately, even if you feel fine. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent and can go unnoticed for days or weeks following a crash. Seek a full medical evaluation and let your doctor know you were in a car accident.
- Call an attorney. An attorney can help you evaluate your legal options, identify the responsible parties, and determine the best course of action moving forward.
How Our Firm Can Assist You with Your Claim
After a car accident, you may be contacted by the other party’s insurance provider. An adjuster from the insurance company may attempt to ask you questions about the accident or even offer you a settlement. We strongly encourage you to not speak to any adjuster from the other person’s auto insurance company.
Remember, insurance companies are businesses and, therefore, their primary concern is their own bottom line. Often, insurance adjusters will attempt to get car accident victims to admit partial fault for an accident or accept a low-ball settlement offer that does not even begin to cover the true extent of their damages. However, once you have accepted a settlement offer, you will likely be unable to collect any additional compensation. Furthermore, if you admit fault—even unknowingly—the adjuster may use this to devalue or even outright deny your claim.
Luckily, we can help. Before speaking to anyone from the other party’s insurance company, contact our legal team for a free consultation and advice regarding your situation. Once you choose to work with Whiting Hagg & Dorsey, LLP, we can assist you through the claims filing process by negotiating with insurance adjusters on your behalf and building a solid case that supports your claim. Our goal is to help you secure the maximum compensation you are owed.
We may be able to help you recover compensation for:
- Any medical expenses related to injuries you suffered due to the accident
- Your lost wages/income from time taken off work to recover
- Lost future earnings if your injuries have left you partially or fully disabled
- Physical pain and suffering, as well as emotional distress and trauma
- Property damage if your vehicle required repairs after the accident
This list is not exhaustive. In some cases, we may be able to recover punitive damages when another person was egregiously negligent, such as in the case of a drunk driver. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you with your claim.
Is South Dakota a No-Fault State?
No. South Dakota is a "fault-based" state in regards to car accident liability, meaning that the person or persons responsible for a crash will also be financially responsible for any resulting harm. If you have been injured in a car accident, you may seek compensation from the at-fault driver in any of the following ways:
- Filing a claim with your own insurance company, who will seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurer
- Filing a third-party claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver
Comparative Negligence in South Dakota Car Accident Cases
Determining fault in a car accident case is not always as simple as it seems, as the evidence may indicate that multiple parties are to blame for a crash. What happens if you share some of the blame for the accident that caused your injuries? Fortunately, even if you are found to be partially at fault for your collision, you will still be eligible to recover compensation under South Dakota's comparative negligence laws, though your available damages may be reduced.
Under Section 20-9-2 of South Dakota Codified Laws, you may still receive compensation for injuries sustained in a car wreck as long as the jury finds you only "slightly" at fault for your injuries, though any compensation you receive will be reduced proportional to your percentage of fault. There is no set legal definition of "slight" under South Dakota law, so this is typically determined by a jury on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you suffer $20,000 worth of damages in an accident but are found to be 10% at fault, you will only be able to recover $18,000 total (or $20,000 less 10%).
These rules are binding to judges and juries (if your case proceeds to trial), but they will also serve as a guiding factor when an insurance adjuster is evaluating your case. Since there is no set legal guideline for determining fault, this will largely be subjective and depend on how well you and your attorney negotiate with the involved insurance company.
The South Dakota Car Accident Statute of Limitations
Car accident lawsuits in South Dakota are subject to a "statute of limitations" which limits the amount of time injured parties have to seek legal action against the at-fault driver. Under South Dakota Codified Laws section 15-2-14, you have three years from the date of your crash to file a civil claim in pursuit of damages. If a loved one was killed as a result of the crash, you have three years to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. Finally, property damage lawsuits must be filed within six years of your collision.
If you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, your case will almost certainly be dismissed, thereby permanently preventing you from pursuing damages. It is important to note that these deadlines are different for car accident insurance claims; most insurance policies require accident claims to be filed within a few days of the crash to be eligible for coverage. Whatever the case may be, it is recommended you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you are compliant with all deadlines that may apply to your case.
No Recovery, No Fee — Call now!
Regardless of the severity of your injuries, our legal team at Whiting Hagg & Dorsey, LLP is here to support you. Our car accident lawyers in Rapid City operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay us nothing unless we secure a favorable outcome to your case.
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