Wyoming Medical Malpractice Laws & Statutory Rules

Wyoming's medical malpractice laws try to balance the rights of injured patients with the risks of frivolous claims against health care providers.

Embracing some of the procedural hurdles popularized by the modern tort reform movement, while sidestepping controversial damage caps, Wyoming has one of the most balanced medical malpractice playing fields in the country. Read on for an overview of state laws that could affect a medical malpractice lawsuit in Wyoming.

Statute of Limitations

The medical malpractice statute of limitations in Wyoming says that a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the act, error or omission (action or inaction) that allegedly caused the plaintiff's claimed injury. If the act, error or omission was not reasonably discoverable within two years or was not discovered despite due diligence, a claim must be filed within two years of the date on which it actually was discovered.

In the case of minors, the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice claim is either the regular statute of limitations as described above, or by the minor's eighth birthday -- whichever is later. If the claimant suffers from some other type of disability, then the suit must be brought within one year of the removal of the disability.

Finally, it's important to note that the statute of limitations period can be extended by an additional six months if the act, error or omission is discovered in the second year of the two-year limitations period.

The Wyoming "Medical Review Panel" Process

Under Wyoming Statutes section 9-2-1518, before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be broght to court, a claim must be filed with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel, unless:

  • the patient and the provider have agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration
  • the parties have agreed to waive the Medical Review Panel process, or
  • the lawsuit was filed prior to July 1, 2005.

Here's a brief summary of the claim process:

  • The patient submits a claim to the panel, including a description of the health care provider's allegedly-negligent conduct, and the names and addresses of all treating providers.
  • The patient also submits an authorization for the release of his/her relevant medical records.
  • The health care provider answers the patient's claim within 60 days (if no answer is filed, the patient is free to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in court).
  • The patient submits a statement signed by a qualified medical expert, who declares the basis for his or her belief that the health care provider committed malpractice.

The Medical Review Panel then holds a hearing and decides whether there is:

  • substantial evidence that the provider committed malpractice, and
  • a reasonable probability that the patient was injured by that malpractice.

The Medical Review Panel's decision is not binding on the parties, but if a lawsuit is filed, the court can decide whether to admit aspects of the panel's proceedings.

Damage Caps and Fault

Unlike a number of other states, Wyoming does not have any damage caps in medical malpractice cases. In fact, the Wyoming State Constitution, in Article 2 Section 4, expressly forbids enacting a law to limit "the amount of damages to be recovered for causing the injury or death of any person."

In Wyoming, a defendant is only responsible for their proportionate share of any damages if the plaintiff is less than 50% responsible. Joint and several has been replaced with allocated several liability, meaning that a defendant is only liable for damages proportionate with their percentage of fault.

Wyoming case law has evolved such that hospitals can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of non-employed physicians. The hospital must act in a manner that suggests that the doctor is providing services on behalf of the institution, and the patient must be justified in relying upon the hospital's assertions in order to collect. This is a very plaintiff-friendly provision, as it allows victims of malpractice to potentially draw from the deeper pockets of a hospital as well as from individual doctors.

Malpractice Insurance and the Patient Compensation Fund

Wyoming physicians who carry at least $50,000 per claim in malpractice insurance are entitled to excess liability coverage through the state's medical liability compensation fun. As long as physicians meet the insurance requirements and pay the appropriate surcharge, any judgment in excess of their insurance limits is paid through the fund, not to exceed $1 million in a calendar year per physician. This provision helps both plaintiffs and defendant doctors by encouraging the acquisition of malpractice insurance and providing funds to injured parties in the case of claims that exceed insurance limits.

Wyoming medical malpractice law is refreshingly straightforward. With some provisions that are plaintiff-friendly and others that aid medical professionals, Wyoming has a very balanced system in place. If you believe you may have a claim for medical malpractice in Wyoming, contact a licensed, reputable Wyoming attorney as soon as possible.

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