South Dakota Supreme Court Rear End Accident Opinion

Last week in Baddou v. Hall, the South Dakota Supreme Court either enunciated new law or affirmed existing law (depending upon your perspective) on whether South Dakota has a presumption of negligence in Rapid City rear-end car accident case. The court’s answer: it does not.

This is bad law, in my opinion, because it makes South Dakota car accident lawyer prove a negative. Rear-end car accidents rarely happen in the absence of negligence and the defendant is the one in the best position to know the nuance of the negligence. It is basically a technicality generating law.

I disagree with the Plaintiff that a rear end accident should be negligence per se. Instead, the better law, applied in many states such as Florida, Maryland, and Colorado, is that there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence in rear end accident cases.

The South Dakota court also affirmed in dicta the notion that the “mere fact an accident happened creates no inference that it was caused by someone’s negligence” in South Dakota. This instruction has fallen out of favor in many jurisdictions but, apparently, not in Bismarck.

Another aspect of South Dakota law that I don’t like is that they are more liberal in allowing police reports in evidence than most other states. Jurors are confused when they do not see the police report but they are even more confused when they do and tend to delegate their decision making power to the police officer instead of using their own judgment. I actually think this rule generally helps plaintiffs’ car accident lawyers. But not always and I don’t think the admission of the police report is fair.

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