South Dakota is a wonderful state with so many positives for locals and visitors. There is, however, a negative we should address. In the decade from 2003-2012, 537 people lost their lives in car crashes involving drunk drivers in this state. South Dakota's drunk driving death toll was almost double the national average during that time. (National average: 3.3 deaths per year per 100,000 population; South Dakota: 5.7 deaths per year per 100,000 population.) These are unacceptable statistics.
In 2010, 5,801 people were injured on South Dakota highways. Another 5,374 injuries were inflicted in car crashes in 2011. The economic loss from motor vehicle accidents was $379 Million in 2010 and $345 Million in 2011; those losses do not include the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation, or the human cost of living with a catastrophic injury. These are unacceptable statistics too.
What Is a Catastrophic Injury?
A catastrophic injury is the most severe type of injury and occurs whenever there is a significant loss of the body's function. Examples of catastrophic injuries are spinal injury, paralysis, amputation, and impaired use of a limb. Some catastrophic injuries are not visible, such as traumatic brain injury and severe emotional injuries, and these invisible injuries can be just as disabling and devastating.
The financial aftermath of a catastrophic injury can be overwhelming. There is not just one stack of medical bills to pay. There are ongoing medical bills that stretch far into the future, with no end in sight. There is time lost from work, and the threat of losing altogether the ability to support oneself and one's family.
These are just the financial costs. The human cost inflicted on the severely injured person and their family is usually more profound than the financial cost.
Laws Protect People Who Suffer Catastrophic Injuries.
Since 1877, South Dakota law has provided that every person is responsible for injury caused to another person by their willful or negligent acts. State law has also always provided that the measure of damages is the amount which will compensate for all the detriment caused by that wrongful conduct.
The word compensate means to bring back into balance, to make whole, to give an equivalent or substitute of equal value. That is why the law requires the financial compensation to match and balance the harm and loss caused by wrongful conduct.
Public Safety is the Primary Purpose of the American Legal System
Criminal courts exist to punish dangerous conduct, and thereby deter it. The crimes of assault, reckless driving, robbery, drunk driving, and selling drugs all involve an element of public danger - threats to personal safety. These dangerous acts are deterred by criminal courts to make our communities safer.
The purpose of civil courts is the same - promoting public safety by holding wrongdoers accountable. Civil courts require those who break public safety rules to pay for all the harm and loss they cause others to suffer. By deterring dangerous behavior, civil courts promote safety, too.
These legal rules have existed since the time of Moses. In Biblical times, if you injured another man's ox, the law required that you give him yours. If you injured another man's servant, you had to lend him yours. If you killed another man, you provided for his family as if they were your own.
Our legal system has adapted with changing times, but public safety is still its primary goal. For example, South Dakota courts now authorize punitive damages to deter reckless and intentional wrongdoing, such as drunk driving. And drunk drivers can no longer use bankruptcy to discharge their debts owed to people they have injured when driving drunk.
Holding Wrongdoers Accountable for Catastrophic Injuries
For decades, Barker Wilson Law Firm has held wrongdoers accountable for the severe and catastrophic injuries they have inflicted upon innocent people. These innocent people came to Barker Wilson because they had little choice but to seek a legal remedy. Many came for an additional reason -- they didn't want it to happen to anybody else - and this is how it works:
When wrongdoers are held accountable for all the detriment they cause, wrongdoers change and others are deterred. Somebody avoids suffering a catastrophic injury and all of us are made safer in the process.
For more information about Barker Wilson, visit them online or call them directly at (605) 723-8000. Your questions will be answered so you can make an informed decision about where to turn and what to do.
Sources: https://dps.sd.gov/enforcement/accident_records/documents/2011FactsBook.pdf, https://www.cdc.gov/â€‹motorvehiclesafety/pdf/impaired_driving/drunk_driving_in_sd.pdf