South Dakota Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of South Dakota, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of South Dakota statutes in each section.

Here are the South Dakota car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of any vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing within any clearly marked crosswalk or any regular pedestrian crossing, except at intersections where the movement of traffic is being regulated by traffic officers or traffic direction devices.
Section 32-27-1

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Section 32-27-1

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don't Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk or a lighted international pedestrian walk symbol. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Don't walk or a lighted international pedestrian don't walk symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don't Walk signal is showing.
Section 32-28-9.1

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
Section 32-27-4

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Section 32-27-5

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 32-28-10

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways unless it is impracticable to travel on the right side of the highway and except when overtaking and passing another vehicle.
Section 32-26-1

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Section 32-26-26

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may not driver on the left side of the roadway when approaching or upon the crest of a grade or a curve in the highway where the driver's view is obstructed and creates a hazard if another vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 32-26-35

No driver may drive on the left side of the roadway when approaching within one hundred feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing or when the view is obstructed upon approaching within one hundred feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.
Section 32-26-36

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • Upon a one-way street. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
Section 32-26-27

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Section 32-26-40

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to read, write, or send text-based communications, except to contact emergency services.
Section 32-26-47

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right. The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed forfeits any right-of-way which they might have otherwise.
Section 32-26-13

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 32-26-19

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Section 32-26-14

Bicycling Laws

A person operating a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk, roadway, or crosswalk, has all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except they must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian, and except that bicyclists must stop before entering a crosswalk or highway from a sidewalk or sidewalk area.
Section 32-20B-2

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Section 32-20-9.1

"Lane Splitting"

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
Section 32-20-9.2

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists less than 18 years of age must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Section 32-20-4

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must be equipped with at least one and not more than two headlights.
Section 32-17-24

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Careless Driving

Any person who drives any vehicle carelessly and without due caution, at a speed or in a manner that endangers any person or property, is guilty of careless driving.
Section 32-24-8

Reckless Driving

Any person who drives any vehicle carelessly and heedlessly in disregard of the rights or safety of others, or in a manner that endangers any person or property, is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Section 32-24-1

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or higher.
Section 32-23-21

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage must give their name, address and vehicle license number to any person involved in the accident.

If a person is injured or dies, leaving them unable to receive the information, and no police officer is present, the driver must immediately report the accident to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 32-34-3
Section 32-34-3.1

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give their name, address and vehicle license number to any person involved in the accident.

If a person is injured or dies, leaving them unable to receive the information, and no police officer is present, the driver must immediately report the accident to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 32-34-3
Section 32-34-3.1

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in property damage must give their name and address, as well as the name and address of the owner of the vehicle to any person involved in the accident.
Section 32-34-6

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, and vehicle license number. If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, and vehicle license number.

In addition, the driver must without unnecessary delay notify the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority.
Section 32-34-4

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to any one person’s property resulting in $1,000 or more or total damage of all property resulting in $2,000 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest law enforcement authority.
Section 32-34-7

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

Each law enforcement officer who investigates a traffic accident must forward to the Department of Public Safety, within three days after completion of the investigation of the accident, an electronic copy of the investigator's report of the accident.
Section 32-34-10

Accident Report Forms

The secretary of public safety has the authority to adopt and provide a uniform accident report form to be used for accident reports and must adopt and provide a uniform report.
Section 32-34-12

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on South Dakota roadways.

An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the vehicle where no occupant of the motor vehicle has access to it, such as the trunk of a car.
Section 35-1-9.1

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In South Dakota, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Section 32-23-1

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Section 1-11-17 to 1-11-25

Liability Laws

South Dakota and Dram Shop Law

South Dakota does not have a Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under South Dakota law, a person who sells or serves alcohol is not liable for the injuries or property damage suffered or caused by an intoxicated person.
Section 35-11-1
Section 35-11-2

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of South Dakota, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $25,000 per person
  • At least $50,000 for two or more people
  • $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
Section 32-35-2

South Dakota Insurance Information

For information about auto insurance, see the South Dakota Personal Automobile Insurance Guide available on the South Dakota Department of Insurance website.

Comparative Negligence

In South Dakota, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives. The amount of compensation that a victim receives is reduce by the amount of negligence they contributed to the accident.
Section 20-9-2

Example of Comparative Negligence

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
Comparative Negligence: Section 20-9-2
Right of Way: 32-26-19
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 32-26-47

South Dakota's No Fault Car Insurance

In South Dakota, the law gives car owners must purchase liability insurance and the at-fault driver is liable for compensating victims in a car accident. The victim in a car accident can seek compensation for their injuries and property damage by filing a claim with their own insurance company, or they can file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

For information about auto insurance, see the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation website.

Statute of Limitations

South Dakota has a three (3) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the three (3) year period following the accident, otherwise the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Section 15-2-14

Small Claims Courts

In South Dakota, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $12,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

For information about filing a small claims case, see the South Dakota Unified Judicial System website.

South Dakota Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In South Dakota, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.

The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.

In order to recover damages for personal injury, property damage, error, or omission or death caused by a public entity or its employees, the claimant must forward written notice of the time, place, and cause of the injury to the public entity within 180 days after the injury.
Sections 3-21-7

Example

If Melissa, an engineer with the Rapid City Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then Rapid City would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then Rapid City can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Sections 3-21-7
NCSL

Sources

State Government of South Dakota

South Dakota Department of Transportation

South Dakota State Legislature

South Dakota Department of Public Safety

Governors Highway Safety Association

South Dakota Bar Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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