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posted in Wilka, Welter & Ash LLP Law Blog.
Understanding South Dakota’s Slight/Gross Rule
Determining who’s at fault and the level of fault is crucial in personal injury claims in South Dakota. Currently, the State is the only one in the Union that uses the Slight/Gross Negligence Comparative Fault rule. This rule is a modification of the pure comparative fault rule.
Degree of Fault
Comparative negligence refers to an assignment of fault – how much each party contributed to an event that caused injuries. It reduces the damages that the injured party can recover by the percentage that the injured party contributed to the injury-causing event.
Impact of Mostly At Fault
In pure comparative fault systems, injured parties can collect damages, even if they are mostly responsible for their injuries. They don’t collect the full amount of the damages because the courts reduce the amount awarded by the degree at which they’re at fault. So, if an injured party is 60 percent at fault for his or her injuries, the courts will reduce his or her award by 60 percent.
Slight Vs. Gross
In South Dakota, injured parties can collect damages if their negligence was slight and the defendant’s was gross. This means that a person can collect damages if he or she was only slightly at fault for his or her disability. So, if a driver runs a red light and hits a jaywalker, the damages the jaywalker might receive are likely to be reduced because he or she didn’t use the crosswalk.
Reduction of Damages
The injured party in this scenario is partly at fault for his or her injuries, so the courts will reduce the awarded damages by a percentage that corresponds with the plaintiff’s level of fault. This rule is sometimes difficult to litigate because an assignment of slight or gross negligence can be difficult to determine. This is the reason that it’s prudent for people involved with personal injury events to contact a disability attorney in Sioux Falls.
Difficulty Assigning Fault
For some, the slight/gross rule assuages the pure comparative rule. This is because if the injured party is more than slightly responsible for his or her injuries, he or she might forfeit damages. Some in the legal field find this rule troublesome because it’s not possible to add an exact quantifier to “slight.” With this rule, the jury can attribute “slight” if the injured parties negligence is less than the defendant’s. But, if the defendant and plaintiff contributed equally to the event, no damages can be awarded.