South Dakota Car Accident Laws – A Complete Guide


Kimberly Dawn Neumann

South Dakota has the second highest number of rural crash deaths throughout the United States in 2021. And almost 151,000 people suffer from vehicle collisions annually, requiring the knowledge of South Dakota car accident laws to pull through.

It’s overwhelming to keep track of reporting requirements and legal paperwork while you’re healing from an auto accident injury. Sometimes it feels like South Dakota car accident laws were meant to confuse you to prevent further legal action.

Fortunately, our complete guide can accurately summarize South Dakota car accident laws so you won’t get confused. Understand key parts to your case like:

  • What to do at the scene
  • How to report your accident
  • Who determines fault

We’ll also explain when an auto accident lawyer can help with a South Dakota collision. Because the more you know, the better you’ll be able to handle things if and when a crash happens.

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Table of Contents

​​What to Do After a Car Accident in South Dakota

Regardless of where you live, the first step after any crash is to stop at the scene. However, in South Dakota it’s actually the law (§32-34-3). Drivers have a “duty to stop in case of accident” per the South Dakota legislature’s rulings.

That same code requires that drivers also render reasonable aid to any injured persons. That includes calling 911 but also physically transporting them to a doctor or hospital if necessary.

However, always wait for emergency services if they are available. Especially since common car accident injuries like whiplash and internal bleeding may show up later. So you don’t want to make them worse by moving someone prematurely.

You’ll also want to get yourself and other passengers to safety. If your car is impeding traffic, move your vehicle, if possible, to avoid a multi-car accident or further damage.

Once everyone is safe, South Dakota law also requires that you give your name and address to the other driver. You must also supply the name and address of the vehicle’s owner (if different) and the license plate number.

This step is key, because you’ll need their contact information if you want to pursue legal action against them. The more evidence you can gather, the stronger your case for compensation.

Information to Gather To Strengthen Your Case

In addition to the requisite exchange of contact information, at the scene of an accident try to record the following:

  • Make, model, and color of all vehicles
  • Insurance information for any other drivers
  • Statements from and contact details for any witnesses at the scene
  • Photos of the accident, surroundings, damage, and any other salient details

This can help you prove liability when filing a car accident insurance claim with your attorney. Also, the more information you can gather onsite, the stronger your case if you need to go to trial.

How to Report a South Dakota Car Accident

It’s always a good idea to call the police after a collision. However, in certain cases it’s a requirement per South Dakota car accident law §32-34-7.

You must immediately report an accident to the police by the quickest means of communication possible when the following occur:

  • Any form of bodily injury or fatality occurs in an accident
  • There is $1,000+ in property damage for one involved party
  • There is more than $2,000 in total property damage
  • Damaged unattended vehicles or other property and the owner is unreachable

Failing to report an accident of this magnitude is a Class 2 misdemeanor in South Dakota. But even if a collision seems minor, calling law enforcement is prudent because you may need their report later. A police report can be useful evidence when it comes to determining fault for a crash.

Is South Dakota a No-Fault State?

South Dakota is actually an at-fault or “tort” state. This means the person responsible for a car accident must also pay for the other victim’s injuries and property damages.

That’s why you should be careful not to apologize or say anything incriminating at the accident site. Even if you actually think you’re partially responsible.

That’s because the other parties may try to use your comments against you when determining fault. Any admissions may impede your chances of getting a future settlement.

It’s also why having some type of motor vehicle insurance is vital when driving in South Dakota.

South Dakota Car Insurance Laws

Like most states, South Dakota requires all drivers to purchase and carry some minimum amount of liability car insurance. This ensures that drivers have some form of financial protection if they’re found at-fault for an accident.

Essentially, an insurance company will absorb these losses up to the policy limits that a driver obtains.

All motorists in South Dakota must carry 25/50/25 minimum insurance liability coverage, which means:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury in one accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury for all persons in one accident
  • $25,000 for property damages resulting from one accident

South Dakota car accident laws also require drivers to carry uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This kind of coverage protects you and your passengers if the at-fault driver has no insurance. It also applies if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

Your UM/UIM coverage must match your initial insurance coverage amounts. So, if taking out a minimum policy, you must include minimum UM/UIM insurance for $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

However, keep in mind that UM/UIM coverage will not apply to damage to your own vehicle.

Additional Coverage Options

The South Dakota insurance minimum liability requirements only cover the other cars and passengers in case of accident. They do not cover your own injuries or damage.

As such, many drivers may also purchase the following types of additional insurance:

  • Collision insurance. This pays for all vehicle damage resulting from your accident, regardless of who is at-fault.
  • Comprehensive insurance. This type of insurance covers vehicle damage from phenomena separate from vehicle collisions, like fires and floods. For instance, if you hit an animal while driving, comprehensive insurance will cover your car’s repair fees. Since nearly 30% of crashes in South Dakota involve hitting a wild animal, this may be a smart addition.
  • Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payment Insurance. PIP or MedPay will help cover your own injuries and medical bills.

Generally, it’s a good idea to add to your policy whatever extra insurance your budget allows. This is because car accident claims can get very expensive quickly.

Comparative Negligence Law in South Dakota

All states follow some type of pure or comparative negligence law when it comes to determining car accident fault. Except South Dakota, which follows a slight-gross negligence rule (§20-9-2).

In South Dakota, it’s possible to receive compensation even when partially at-fault. But it only comes into play if your responsibility for the crash is “slight”, and the other’s is “gross”.

However, if it’s not clear enough to meet this slight/gross standard, then neither party can recover damages from the other. If you’re partially at-fault and able to make a claim, your percentage of fault will reduce your damages, similar to modified comparative negligence.

What is “slight” versus “gross?” Good question. And that’s exactly what makes South Dakota car accident laws particularly confusing.

Because this concept is so nebulous, South Dakota courts now usually say that 30% contributory negligence is more than slight. Still, since nothing is set in stone, it’s difficult to prove and you’ll need a lawyer if planning to sue.

How Much is My Car Accident Worth in South Dakota?

There are basically three ways to make a claim after a car accident in South Dakota:

  1. By filing a claim on your own insurance policy to cover damages
  2. By filing a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier
  3. By filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver

It’s very difficult to quantify what your claim might be worth without knowing the specifics of your situation. A consultation with a skilled auto attorney will give you a better idea of what you might expect.

However, know that there are usually two types of damages you may seek in a car accident case: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages

These are the tangible damages — monetary and otherwise measurable losses resulting from an accident. Common examples of economic damages include:

  • The cost of past and future medical treatments
  • Lost income, wages, or employment because of the accident
  • Damage to property
  • Car repairs and maintenance costs
  • Purchase of assistive devices (like wheelchairs)

Non-Economic Damages

These are intangible losses that feel very real, but are harder to prove. That’s because they don’t come with measurable losses like bills or lost wages. Still, a claimant might successfully win awards for conditions like:

In South Dakota, there are no caps on damages in most personal injury or car accident cases. A lawyer can help you determine the appropriate amounts to seek depending on the severity of your crash and injuries.

South Dakota Car Accident Statute of Limitations

Every state has a time limit before which you must file a civil lawsuit for a car accident. If you miss that deadline, the court will most likely nullify your case.

Keep in mind this is different from the timing for starting a claim with your insurance, which is more immediate.

Because nothing is simple with South Dakota car accident laws, there are several statutes of limitation to know.

South Dakota has a particularly long statute of limitations for property damages. You must file within six years from the accident date (§15-2-13).

However, if you’re suing for personal injuries resulting from the accident, the statute of limitations drops to three years (§15-2-14). The same three-year limit holds true for wrongful death cases (§21-5-3), only the clock starts from the victim’s passing.

Whichever deadline applies to your situation, don’t wait. Especially if your case may include both property damage and personal injury claims. It takes a while to gather information so you never want to push the deadline.

Plus, keep in mind that cases where details are fresh stand a better chance for a positive resolution. Also, filing a legal case may encourage your insurance company to settle your claim faster and more appropriately.

Why You Need an Auto Accident Attorney

It’s certainly tempting to just settle a car accident claim with your insurance and go on with your life. However, even though you’re their client, remember that their goal is to get you to accept the lowest payout possible. As such, you never want to agree to their first offer, and you should have a lawyer look over your case.

Additionally, South Dakota is the only state with an unusual form of “slight vs. gross” comparative negligence. These rules make it much harder to get compensation, even if you deserve it.

In both situations, you need an auto accident attorney who understands the ins-and-outs of South Dakota car accident laws. A good attorney will protect your interests both with your insurance and if necessary, in court.

How LegalASAP Can Help You Find an Auto Accident Lawyer

Instead of trying to manage the process solo, consider letting LegalASAP connect you with a qualified auto accident lawyer.

Our attorney network includes 500+ law firms so we can find you the right advocate in your area.

Plus, not only can an attorney help clear up confusion, but it won’t cost you anything out-of-pocket upfront. That’s because our lawyers work on contingency. So you can be sure they’ll also be working to get the best deal for you.

Reach out today so we can start driving your claim forward towards a positive resolution.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes toCosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more,, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann