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What is a Tort Case, and What does it Involve in South Dakota?

A tort case is an actionable civil filing for personal injury or loss inflicted by another person. In South Dakota, the agency responsible for handling these civil suits against persons, public and private establishments, is the state judiciary. The court also maintains accessible records of court proceedings from when a petitioner files a tort claim until the court issues a ruling.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the document or person involved

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.

What is South Dakota Tort Law?

South Dakota tort law is the body of statutes and common law that confers civil liability apart from contracts and sets guidelines for compensating petitioners. The bulk of the state tort law is in S. D. Cod. Law Ann. § 20–9. The chapter primarily deals with assigning liability for torts, defining liable entities, and establishing the jurisdiction and procedure for making tort claims in South Dakota.

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in South Dakota?

  • Malpractice: This kind of torts applies to professional negligence, action, or inaction that resulted in personal injury or loss. Examples include medical malpractice and real estate broker malpractice.
  • Fraud: South Dakota tort law allows petitioners to claim losses or compensation for an entity’s fraudulent actions. Examples include failure to disclose facts, false representation, and impersonation (S. D. Cod. Law Ann. § 20–9–35).
  • Harassment: When this act results in personal injury, loss, or damages, an individual may file a civil action for compensation (S. D. Cod. Law Ann. § 20–9–32).
  • Trespassing: A property owner may sue a trespasser if his/her actions resulted in damages. Likewise, the property owner is liable to tortious claim if he/she causes injury or loss to the known trespasser in any way (S. D. Cod. Law Ann. § 20–9–11.3).
  • Product liability: A manufacturer whose product caused personal injury or loss due to his/her failure to exercise a duty of care is liable to tortious claims. Examples include manufacturing defects, warning defects, and design flaws.

Note that it is common for a petitioner to file a tort claim based on several of the bases above. Other personal injuries that are liable to tort claims in South Dakota include negligence, such as a slip and fall or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in South Dakota?

South Dakota criminal law and tort law are different in what either accomplishes. The criminal law set in Title 22 of the state codified laws exists to punish crimes committed against the state, even though the victim is an individual, public, or private establishment. The criminal law designates the defendant as an offender who incurs punitive penalties if convicted. The penalties, e.g., imprisonment and fines, ensure that the offender bears the consequences of his/her actions. However, the victim of the crime receives no compensation for the losses or injury inflicted.

On the other hand, tort law establishes that an entity that deliberately or accidentally inflicted injury on another party must compensate the victim. In a tort case, the tortfeasor does not face any of the punitive penalties in criminal law. Also, a tort case is between the petitioner and the tortfeasor, not with the state.

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in South Dakota?

At its core, South Dakota tort law exists to establish the legal rights that individuals have against other entities for injuries or loss inflicted. Then, it sets the compensatory remedies available under such circumstances. Ultimately, the tort law ensures that entities in the state act with an awareness of a duty of care towards others and the consequences of failing that duty.

What is a Tort Claim in South Dakota?

A tort claim is a civil action that a petitioner initiates against a tortfeasor responsible for the personal injury or losses inflicted (S. D. Cod. Law Ann. 20–9–1).. The claim describes the tort and the amount of monetary compensation sought.

How Do You File a Tort Claim in South Dakota?

If an incident resulted in a fatality, serious bodily injury, or property damage, the petitioner must gather all documentary evidence relevant to the incident. Some of these include an incident report from law enforcement, medical report, photographs, and videos. If there are witnesses, the petitioner must collect the contact information of those individuals for future purposes. The petitioner must also prepare a specific, accurate, and truthful account of the incident from his/her point of observation.

Then, the individual must visit the county’s circuit court where the incident happened and file a tort claim. The clerk of courts shall provide the necessary forms upon request. Generally, the petitioner must complete and submit a civil complaint and serve the tortfeasor with a notice of claim or summons. Following this, the case shall proceed in the manner specified in the South Dakota Rule of Civil Procedure. The judiciary also provides systematic instruction on how to start a court action.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in South Dakota?

The content of a tort claim is on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, a typical tort claim must contain the following information:

  • The name of the petitioner;
  • Contact information of petitioner;
  • Name of the tortfeasor, i.e., the entity responsible for the injury/loss;
  • Location of the incident;
  • Date and time of the incident;
  • Factual description of the incident;
  • The nature of personal injury or loss inflicted;
  • Documentary evidence; and,
  • Amount of damages sought.

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in South Dakota?

Upon receiving the tort claim, the tortfeasor must respond with an answer within twenty days. If the tortfeasor is a state agency, the agency shall investigate the tort claim and respond within the statutory window. The agency shall provide the petitioner with instructions and requirements to receive compensation. Note that the petitioner must commence the action within two years of the incident, and the state limits payable amount to $500,000. If the state agency declines or dismisses the tort claim, the petitioner may pursue the case in court.

If the tort claim is against an individual or private entity, the circuit court shall have jurisdiction over the tort claim. Nevertheless, the parties may agree on a mediated settlement before the trial. Court trials for tort claims in South Dakota may be jury trial or before a judge, depending on extenuating circumstances. The case also follows the civil rule of procedure. On average, adjudicating a tort claim in South Dakota takes six months, although complex cases take longer.

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

The primary roles of a personal injury lawyer in a tort claim are: examining the merit of the tort claim, drafting the notice of claim, gathering evidence, and representing the petitioner in court. However, a self-represented petitioner can accomplish these activities if armed with the right information. The expertise of a personal injury lawyer becomes invaluable as the case becomes complex. Some of these include negotiating a settlement, investigating the liability of multiple parties, and tort denial. Besides, where the case goes to a hearing, the litigants must follow procedural rules and rules of evidence. Years of professional training and courtroom experience give the personal injury lawyer the competence to represent the petitioner’s best interests.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me?

Interested persons may find personal injury lawyers through the Lawyer Referral Service that the South Dakota judiciary provides. Likewise, litigants may use the state bar’s lawyer referral service.

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