If you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged after any kind of traffic accident in Wyoming, now is probably a good time to understand your legal options. In this article, we'll discuss a number of state laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make in Wyoming, and we'll look at the legal obligations of drivers when it comes to reporting a crash.
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.
It's important to note that the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim -- or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim -- "promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.
In Wyoming, lawsuits over car accident injuries or damage to a vehicle or other property are subject to a four-year deadline, set by Wyoming Statutes section 1-3-105. That means if anyone was hurt in the crash -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within four years, and the clock starts running on the date of the accident.
A two-year lawsuit filing deadline applies if the car accident caused someone’s death, and the family or a representative wants to bring a wrongful death claim. That deadline is set by Wyoming Statutes Annotated section 1-38-102. And for these cases, the two-year "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself.
It’s crucial to understand and abide by the statute of limitations as it applies to your situation. That’s because if you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Wyoming car accident attorney.
Suppose you're seriously injured in a Wyoming car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident -- but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?
Under Wyoming Statutes section 1-1-109, the state follows a modified "comparative negligence" rule. This means you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence -- as long as your share of liability "is not more than fifty percent (50%) of the total fault of all actors." You can't be more than 50 percent responsible when compared with other parties in the case, in other words. If you are, you can't receive any compensation in court.
For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $10,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $10,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $1,000, leaving you with a total award of $9,000.
The comparative negligence rule binds Wyoming judges and juries (if your car accident case winds its way to trial), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
Reporting obligations related to Wyoming car accidents are covered in Wyoming Statutes section 31-5-1105, which states that the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in:
...must "by the quickest means of communication" (i.e. a cell phone call) give notice of the accident to:
In almost every Wyoming car accident scenario, insurance coverage is sure to play a key role, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on Wyoming's car insurance rules.