No one wants to get in a car accident. But even if you're a careful driver, you might experience an auto accident in North Dakota. An accident may occur through no fault of your own. In these cases and more, a North Dakota car accident attorney can help you understand your options and potentially pursue compensation.
Not sure whether an auto accident lawyer is worth it? Read on to discover how a North Dakota car accident attorney can help you.
North Dakota Car Accident Statistics
North Dakota is one of the most sparsely populated states in the country, but it has more than its fair share of auto accidents. According to recent statistics, 2021 saw over 9,600 motor vehicle crashes in the state. These resulted in approximately 101 fatalities and 2,888 injuries.
Many auto accidents occur on roads throughout the state. North Dakota’s most populated cities are also hotspots for motor vehicle accidents and incidents for many reasons.
For example, big cities are more likely to have traffic jams and crowded roads compared to rural roads. Larger cities also have more drivers in general. The more traffic there is, the more likely two parties will experience an accident.
Here’s a breakdown of the top five most populated cities in North Dakota and their recent car accidents.
Fargo, the most populous city in North Dakota, sits in Cass County. Fargo is situated along the Red River, which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. Cass County had a total of 2,448 accidents in 2021 and 11 traffic fatalities. Of the total accidents, 836 resulted in injuries, while 1,603 accidents were property damage only.
According to state data, the most dangerous intersection in North Dakota is Fargo. The report states that the intersection at 13th Ave S and 45th St in Fargo saw 76 crashes between 2018 and 2020, almost half of which were in wet or snowy weather.
An engineer for the city said the intersection is built as well as it can be and that some of the crashes at the intersection are related to the amount of traffic. The city will try to change traffic signals and timing features to see if that improves safety figures.
Another problem intersection is 45th St and 23rd Ave S., which tallied 47 crashes in the report’s three-year period. Two of the accidents caused catastrophic injuries. The city has already made changes to this intersection. At peak times, as in the morning and evening commutes, drivers won’t be able to turn left unless there is a green arrow.
Bismarck is the state capital and sits in Burleigh County. Lewis and Clark famously were among the first visitors as they embarked on their trip up the Missouri River in 1804. Burleigh county had 2,088 crashes in 2021, resulting in eight fatalities. Of the total accidents, 521 resulted in injuries, while 1559 caused property damage only.
A local radio personality polled his listeners about what they thought were the worst intersections in Bismarck. First place for the worst intersection was Century and State Street. According to the listeners, many cars are running red lights here. Second place was Divide & State Street. According to the listeners, the intersection and the area leading to the interstate are dangerous. Third place was a tie between the intersections at Washington and C, E, and D. These intersections are known for a lot of traffic and narrow roads, and it is challenging for those turning left.
Grand Forks, North Dakota, sits in Grand Forks County. In 2021, the county reported a total of 928 traffic accidents, resulting in four fatalities. Of the total accidents, 262 resulted in injuries, while 660 resulted in property damage only.
The Grand Forks intersection at 32nd Ave S and 31st St was deemed one of the state's most dangerous, as was the intersection of Washington St and Demers Ave. While the Washington St. intersection reported a fatal accident, the 32nd Ave intersection had more total injuries.
Most of the crashes at intersections on 32nd Avenue South involved drivers making left turns. A traffic engineer for the city said the crashes were caused by drivers not being able to see clearly when turning left. In 2021, $7 million was allotted toward realigning left-turn lanes along 32nd Avenue South to make it easier for drivers to see oncoming traffic when turning left. Other improvements included modifying the medians.
Minot, North Dakota, is in Ward County. That county reported 726 accidents in 2021, three of which were fatal. Of the total accidents, 233 resulted in injuries, while 490 caused property damage only.
US-2 and Evergreen Avenue intersection in Minot is considered one of the city’s most dangerous intersections. Work began in the summer of 2021 to improve the roadway and make it safer. The city added better lighting and what is known as “J” turns that will stop vehicles from driving straight across the highway.
According to West Fargo Police data, the city had 980 traffic accidents in 2022, down from 842 in 2021. The data also showed 108 driving under the influence offenses recorded in 2022, down from 114 in 2021.
In 2021, the West Fargo City Commission approved a traffic calming study. The study recommended effective traffic calming measures throughout West Fargo. Traffic calming involves implementing physical roadway features to slow motor vehicle speeds and change driver behavior. Examples would include features like narrowing lanes, speed humps, landscaping, mini roundabouts, and medians.
North Dakota Overview
The good news is that North Dakota vehicle fatalities in 2022 are trending lower than 2021, with 11 fatalities since January 1, 2022. There were 14 fatalities for the same period in 2021.
Government data from 2021 shows that of 2021’s total fatalities:
- 43 individuals were not wearing seat belts, a 4.8% increase from 2020.
- 31 fatalities were alcohol-related, down 20.5% from 2020.
- 27 fatalities were speed-related, up 12.5% from 2020.
In 2022, seat belt usage continues to be an issue. Preliminary data from the North Dakota Department of Transportation shows almost 67% of the motor vehicle fatalities so far this year included drivers or passengers who were not belted.
How will your North Dakota car accident attorney help you after the accident? In North Dakota, as in other states, a common way to pursue getting paid for your expenses caused by an accident is through the legal doctrine of negligence. Standard negligence occurs if a person or party performs or fails to perform an action that a reasonable person would do or not do.
How does negligence work in North Dakota? You will need to prove four elements to find a party negligent. The elements are:
- Duty of care: To be successful in a negligence case, you need to show that the at-fault party had a duty to act in a certain way toward you. For example, all drivers have a duty to others on the road to drive safely. So if you are texting while driving, you are breaching your duty of care to others.
- Breach of duty: You must show that the at-fault party failed to act according to that duty (texting while driving, drinking alcohol while driving, etc.)
- Causation: You must show a connection between the at-fault party’s conduct and your injuries
- Damages: You must show that you suffered an actual loss or damages due to the injury. Examples include the physical harm you suffered, your medical expenses, and lost wages from missed work. Pain and suffering would also be considered as damage you could recover compensation for.
Negligence Per Se
Negligence is not the same as negligence per se. Negligence per se means that courts assume a defendant to be automatically negligent if they knowingly break the law or statute and, by breaking the law or statute, have caused injuries to a plaintiff.
For instance, it is illegal not to stop at a stop sign while driving. If a driver fails to heed a stop sign and T-bones another driver, they could be guilty of negligence per se. This is because they broke the law and caused injuries to another driver. Another example of negligence per se is drinking while driving. If a driver injures another while driving under the influence, they may be guilty of negligence per se.
One party might be negligent, but that doesn’t mean that every North Dakota auto accident assigns 100% of the guilt to a single person. In fact, North Dakota auto accident laws include rules about comparative fault.
Comparative fault rules state that both parties in an auto accident can be responsible for damages and injuries. For instance, say that one driver doesn’t stop at a stop sign. Another driver is drinking and driving. Both may be partially liable for their injuries if they impact each other.
North Dakota follows modified comparative fault laws. If you are more than 50% at fault for an auto accident, you will not recover any compensation from the other party/driver. This is true no matter how severe your injuries might be.
If you’re found to be exactly 50% at fault, neither party recovers compensation from the other. Lastly, if you are found to be less than 50% at fault for an auto accident, your damages (whatever they may be) be reduced by that percentage.
Say that you’re found to be 20% at fault for your car accident damages which total $10,000. You would only receive $8,000 in compensation since the compensation award subtracts 20%.
North Dakota is a no-fault car insurance state. This means that automobile drivers’ insurance covers losses up to a certain point, no matter who is responsible for an accident.
To sue an at-fault or negligent driver for damages in North Dakota, you must:
- Have necessary medical expenses that cost more than $2,500 OR
- Have suffered “serious and permanent disfigurement or disability” that lasts for more than 60 days
So long as you meet one or both of the above requirements, you can sue the at-fault driver for compensation. You can do that by filing a personal injury lawsuit or by filing a third-party car insurance claim. In either of these situations, auto accident attorneys may be able to maximize your chances of securing damages.
If you qualify for an auto accident lawsuit, you may recover damages for:
- Past and future medical bills related to the auto accident in question, such as surgical fees, physical therapy fees, and more
- Time spent away from work while you recover from your physical injuries
- Damages to property, such as damage to your personal vehicle
- Pain and suffering compensation
- Loss of companionship compensation
- And more
Statute of Limitations
One of the many ways a North Dakota car accident lawyer can help you is to make sure that you comply with the state’s legal timelines. For instance, under North Dakota law, you have six years from the date of your injury to file a personal injury claim. This is vitally important to remember. If you don’t file a claim in time, that may close the door to your ability to recover any compensation.
How A North Dakota Car Accident Attorney Can Help You
A North Dakota car accident attorney can assist in various important ways. The most important first step is to gather evidence from all parties and in all forms as soon as possible (accident reports, eyewitness testimony, photo and video evidence, toxicology reports). Because of their experience, they know how to conduct a fair detailed accident investigation.
Auto Accident Lawyers can help gather evidence for you while you recover from your injuries:
All of this information can strengthen your case, particularly if you are trying to sue a negligent or at-fault party in your lawsuit.
Contact a North Dakota car accident attorney for more information about your rights after a car accident.