What South Dakota families should know about wrongful death

When a family member dies unexpectedly, the surviving members may struggle to cope with the financial impact of their loss. When a third party caused the person’s death, the deceased’s loved ones may sue for wrongful death.

Learn about the factors that govern wrongful death lawsuits in South Dakota after a tragic incident.

Filing eligibility

When a person’s death involved negligence by a person or business, his or her personal representative may file a wrongful death lawsuit on the family’s behalf. If the deceased had a will, it may name a personal representative. Otherwise, the person’s surviving spouse and children can ask the court to appoint a personal representative.

If the lawsuit succeeds, South Dakota requires the proceeds to go to the deceased person’s surviving spouses and children. When he or she has no surviving spouse or children, the personal representative must distribute the proceeds to the deceased person’s next of kin.

Available damages

The court can award damages to the family to represent the lost financial support, household services, moral support, affection, guidance, companionship and love of the deceased person. In addition, a wrongful death award will cover the deceased person’s projected lost wages, final burial expenses and medical expenses related to the fatal incident.

South Dakota allows punitive damages in certain cases, including those involving intentional or excessively reckless conduct.

The personal representative has three years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in South Dakota. If the fatal incident involved criminal misconduct, the civil case can proceed at the same time as criminal prosecution.