Barker Wilson Law Firm
Rapid City 605-646-2531
Belle Fourche 605-699-1619
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Dealing with a Catastrophic Auto Accident

A bad car accident can change your life. But a catastrophic auto accident can injure a victim so severely they may never work again or recover sufficiently to live normally. The victim's world - and their family's world - has been turned upside down. If the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your harms and losses. Contacting a personal injury lawyer is crucial to protect your rights.

Common Injuries

Many catastrophic injuries affect the brain or spine. These injuries can result in permanent neurologic or cognitive losses. Other common catastrophic injuries from car accidents include:

  • Severe burns
  • Loss of arms or legs
  • Vision loss
  • Internal injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Multiple fractures.

These injuries may require months or years of treatment. Victims may also suffer serious emotional and psychological effects from these traumatic events.

Compensation and Damages

Under South Dakota law, an innocent victim of a catastrophic car accident is entitled to compensation for all the harms and losses they suffer as a result of the wrongdoer's fault.  Compensatory, or economic, damages are paid to restore the victim to the financial position he or she occupied before the collision:

  • Medical expenses to treat and rehabilitate the injury;
  • Lost earnings and future lost earnings caused by the injury;
  • Reimbursement for motor vehicle damage;
  • Other expenses incurred as a consequence of the injury.

Non-economic damages for physical pain, mental suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are paid to compensate the victim for harms and losses that cannot be repaired or restored.  

Under South Dakota law, a victim whose fault contributed to the car accident is not entitled to full compensation for all their harms and losses.  Instead, their recovery of damages is reduced in proportion to their fault.  (A victim who is 10% at fault recovers all but 10% of their harms and losses.)  In addition, a victim who is more than slightly negligent in causing the accident, when compared to the negligence of the wrongdoer, is not entitled to recover any compensation for the injuries they suffered in the accident. 

Sometimes, in cases of drunken or especially reckless driving, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to the compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the person responsible and serve as a warning to others that such behavior has consequences.  Recovery of punitive damages is rare in South Dakota.

Statutes of Limitation

Under South Dakota law, there are deadlines that limit your right to recover damages suffered in a car accident.  Those time limits vary and depend upon the category of wrongdoer who caused the accident.  For example, if a public entity (or its employee driving on the job) is the wrongdoer, the victim must give written notice to the entity within 180 days of the accident.  If the federal government or its employee is the wrongdoer, written notice must be given within two years of the accident.  After providing notice, lawsuits against a city or its employee must be brought within two years of the accident and lawsuits against the county or the state or their employees must be brought within three years.  Lawsuits against people or companies who are not working for a public entity at the time of the accident must generally be brought within three years of the collision.  There are exceptions to these deadline rules that depend upon the facts; it is critical that you contact a lawyer to be sure about the deadline that applies to your particular case.

Contact an Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a catastrophic auto accident, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to defend your rights and help you recover the compensation the law provides. Contact Barker Wilson online or call them directly at (605) 723-8000. We will review your situation and advise you of your options.


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Our attorneys can help you recover full and fair compensation for your harms and losses. To contact our attorneys, please call 605-719-5195 to reach our Belle Fourche and Rapid City, South Dakota, offices.

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