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Proving the Elements of Negligence to Receive Fair Compensation in a South Dakota Motorcycle Accident Case

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2023 | Motorcycle Accidents

If you’re injured in a South Dakota motorcycle accident caused by someone else, you’re entitled to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

If your wreck is a minor one and your medical bills aren’t high, you might be able to handle your own claim without an attorney. The most common motorcycle wrecks, however, tend to cause severe injuries and result in huge medical expenses.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Wrecks

A motorcycle’s instability and lack of visibility in comparison to those of a four-wheel vehicle make it more vulnerable than cars and trucks are to certain accidents:

  • Distracted driving. A distracted car/truck operator watching a GPS device, texting, or talking on a phone can easily fail to see a motorcycle at an intersection, where most accidents occur.
  • Improper lane changes. A car/truck driver not checking blind spots/mirrors when changing lanes can hit a bike in another lane or run the bike off the road.
  • Illegal left turns. A car/truck making an illegal left turn can easily hit a motorcycle coming through an intersection.
  • Running a red light or stop sign. A passenger vehicle running a stop sign/red light can hit a bike turning left in an intersection.
  • Following too closely. Tailgating a bike and not stopping in time can cause a rear-end collision, the most common type of motorcycle accident.
  • Dooring accidents. Parking on the street and opening a car door without checking for an approaching motorcycle also causes many bike crashes.

Common Injuries Following a Motorcycle Crash

While a driver/passenger in a car or truck has the exterior of the vehicle, seat belts, and airbags for protection, a motorcycle rider has only clothing and a helmet. For this reason, even a minor bike accident can result in catastrophic injuries:

  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal cord damage/paralysis
  • Broken, fractured, or crushed bones
  • Lacerations and scars
  • Road rash
  • Internal bleeding/organ damage
  • Amputations
  • Death

Serious injuries like these make motorcycle accident claims some of the costliest an insurance company has to pay. Its adjusters might try to deny your claim or offer you a quick, low settlement to save money for the company. In such a case, you need an attorney to:

  • Collect, organize, and present all your evidence convincingly
  • Put a dollar amount on your pain and suffering
  • Negotiate with the insurance company
  • Take your case to court if the insurance company won’t offer a reasonable settlement

The Elements of Negligence You Need to Prove to Get Compensated

Getting a court judgment that awards you fair compensation for your damages depends on showing evidence that the driver who hit you was negligent. To do so, you must prove the four elements of a negligence claim:

  • Duty. The defendant (at-fault driver) owed you (the plaintiff) a legal duty of care. All drivers on the road have a legal duty to obey traffic laws and operate safely, so this element is easy enough to prove.
  • Breach of duty. The defendant did something the average person would not have done (or did not do something the average person would have done) under the circumstances. If the average person would have known you could be injured because of the action/inaction, then the defendant breached the duty of care.
  • Causation. The defendant’s breach caused your injury, and the defendant could have reasonably foreseen this would happen. If, however, the defendant’s action/inaction caused your injury because of a random/unforeseen act of nature, causation might be harder to prove.
  • Damages. You were harmed by the defendant’s breach in some way the court can compensate monetarily.

Comparative Negligence

Proving the elements of negligence in a court case is even more complicated because of the modified comparative negligence standard adopted by South Dakota. Even if you’re found partially responsible for your own accident, you may still receive compensation as long as your negligence was slight in comparison to that of the defendant.

The term “slight” is open to wide interpretation by a judge or jury. Because the success of your case really depends upon convincing the court of the defendant’s negligence, the services of an attorney are highly recommended.

Contact Our Sioux Falls Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Today

An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can prove the elements of negligence to get you fair compensation. Contact us online or call us at 605-644-5003 to schedule a free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.