If you've been injured by a health care provider's substandard care in Wyoming, you might be thinking about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. These cases are almost always extremely complicated, and you'll most likely need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to help you through the process. But it can also be useful to understand the basics before you decide to pursue a claim. Read on for some highlights of Wyoming's medical malpractice laws, including:
All states have deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits, set by laws called "statutes of limitations." These time limits differ from state to state, but they are always strictly enforced. In other words, if you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable statute of limitations has expired, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will most likely ask the court to throw out your case, and the court will almost certainly do so. At that point, you've lost the right for the court to hear your claim at all.
Wyoming, like most states, has a statute of limitations specifically for medical malpractice lawsuits. The law states that an injured patient has two years from the date of the "alleged act, error or omission" to get the case filed in court.
But, also like most states, Wyoming applies what's called the "discovery rule" to medical malpractice cases. Under the discovery rule, if the plaintiff can establish that the health care provider's negligence was "not reasonably discoverable" or that the injured patient failed to discover the malpractice despite "the exercise of due diligence," the filing deadline is two years from the date the malpractice was discovered. But note that injured patients who rely on the discovery rule to extend the statute of limitations have the burden of proving that they didn't discover—and couldn't have discovered—the malpractice any earlier than they did.
Finally, the statute of limitations period will be extended by an additional six months if the malpractice is discovered in the second year of the two-year limitations period.
(Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-107 (2022).)
In their efforts at tort reform, many states have passed laws requiring potential medical malpractice plaintiffs to provide some sort of proof that their case has merit at the beginning of the case, typically by filing a "certificate of merit" or submitting the claim to a medical review panel.
For years Wyoming had a law on the books that required a medical review panel to evaluate most medical malpractice cases before they could proceed to court. In 2021, however, the Wyoming legislature repealed the state's medical review panel statutes. As of July 1, 2022, the medical review panel is no longer a part of the Wyoming medical malpractice lawsuit process, although the panel will continue to operate until it finalizes decisions on all claims filed with the panel before that date.
Although injured patients no longer have to bring their potential lawsuit before a medical review panel for a decision on whether the claim has merit, plaintiffs still have the burden of proving their case in court. Specifically, Wyoming law states that the injured patient must prove that the defendant health care provider failed to act in accordance with:
In order to prove that the health care provider failed to meet the appropriate standard of care in your case, you'll most likely need the testimony of at least one qualified medical expert. Under Wyoming law, an expert who is "qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education" may testify in a medical malpractice case in order to help the jury understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue.
(Wyo. Stat. § 1-12-601; Wyo. Rules of Evidence 702 (2022).)
Unlike a number of other states, Wyoming does not have a law that caps damages in medical malpractice cases. In fact, Article 10, Section 4 of the Wyoming State Constitution expressly forbids enacting a law to limit "the amount of damages to be recovered for causing the injury or death of any person." In other words, there is no statutory limit on the amount of compensation you can receive if your medical malpractice claim succeeds.