If you've filed (or are thinking about filing) a Wyoming personal injury (PI) insurance claim or lawsuit, you should know about the basic rules that might impact your case. We'll walk you through many of the key PI rules here.
Keep in mind that the rules (and the legal system itself) are complex, often making it a good idea to consult a PI attorney if you think you might have a case.
Every state, including Wyoming, has laws called "statutes of limitations" that limit your time to file a lawsuit in court. These time limits start to run from the date your PI claim "accrues," which is typically the date you're injured, assuming you're aware of your injury when it happens.
What happens if you miss the filing deadline? Absent an exception to the rule (more on that below), you lose your right to sue, forever.
Most cases. In most Wyoming personal injury cases, you have four years to sue. (Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-105(a)(iv)(C) (2023).)
Intentional torts. If you're injured by an "intentional tort," meaning deliberate misconduct that causes you harm, you've got one year from the date your claim accrues to file suit. The intentional torts covered by this rule are:
(Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-105(a)(v) (2023).)
Medical malpractice. Lawsuits claiming medical malpractice are subject to some special rules. Specifically, in most medical malpractice cases, you must file suit within two years from the later of:
(Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-107(a)(i) (2023).)
Different rules apply in medical malpractice cases involving very young children and people who are legally disabled. (Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-107(a) (2023).)
Tolling. Sometimes the plaintiff (the person suing) in a Wyoming PI case gets more than the typical amount of time to file their lawsuit. Certain events will pause the statute-of-limitations clock—in legalese, the statute is "tolled." For instance, the statute of limitations doesn't run during any period when the person who caused your injury (the defendant) is outside Wyoming or goes into hiding. (Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-116 (2023).)
Minors and people with legal disabilities. Wyoming has a separate exception for kids and people with legal disabilities. Someone who is a minor or who has a legal disability when the claim arises has to sue within the later of:
(Wyo. Stat. § 1-3-114 (2023).)
Suing Wyoming or a local government like a city, county, or school board involves a two-part process. First, you must file a notice of claim with the government you want to sue. Second, you have to file a lawsuit against the government within a special statute of limitations.
Filing the claim. You can't file a lawsuit against the government unless you first send a written notice of your claim within two years from the date you were injured. The claim notice statute is very particular about what the claim must include and how it's to be delivered. (Wyo. Stat. § 1-33-113 (2023).)
Filing a lawsuit. Filing your claim with the government isn't the same thing as filing a lawsuit in court. After you've filed your claim, if you still want to sue the government, you have to file a complaint in court. Your complaint must be filed within one year after you filed your claim with the government, and it must include specific allegations. (Wyo. Stat. §§ 1-33-114, 1-33-113(d) (2023).)
In a typical personal injury case, to collect compensation for your injuries (what the law calls "damages"), you must prove that the defendant's negligence caused the accident. Quite often, the defendant will claim that you, too, were negligent and that your negligence should reduce or eliminate the damages you can collect.
This defense, called "comparative negligence," is available under Wyoming law. Specifically, Wyoming has a "modified" comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, you can collect damages for your injuries, even if you were partly to blame. Your damages are simply reduced by your share of the total negligence. But if you're found mostly to blame—meaning more than 50% negligent—you can't collect any damages at all. (Wyo. Stat. § 1-1-109(b) (2023).)
When someone else's negligence injures you in Wyoming, there are a couple of ways you can get compensation. You can:
In most cases, Wyoming law lets you bring an insurance claim or file a lawsuit against a person, business, or even a government entity that caused your injury. If you can prove their negligence, you're allowed to collect damages, including money for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and more.
Starting an insurance claim usually involves sending the responsible party a claim notice letter. It's also important to send a copy of the letter to their insurance company (if you know it), or start the claim on the insurer's online claims page or claims app. Talking to a lawyer before you start the claim process can be a good idea.
Most personal injury cases settle. What happens if yours doesn't? Then you'll need to decide whether to file a lawsuit. In even a simple PI case, a lawsuit can be complicated, expensive, and stressful. If you're thinking about going to court, you should consult with an experienced Wyoming PI lawyer first.
There are some drawbacks to bringing an insurance claim or a lawsuit against whoever caused your injury.
First, it'll probably take some time to collect your damages. An insurance claim can take months to settle. A lawsuit can take a year or more to finish. You might need money quickly to pay your bills.
Second, lawsuits can be expensive, especially if your case involves expert witnesses or complex, technical issues. You might not need to worry if you find a lawyer who will take your case on a contingent fee basis. Instead of charging you by the hour, the lawyer takes a percentage (usually 25% to 40%) of your recovery as a fee. Some lawyers will advance case expenses and deduct those from your recovery, too.
Third, it won't do you any good to go after the responsible party if it turns out that they're uninsured and don't have any assets—cash or other property—to pay you.
These are some of the reasons why you might consider filing a claim against your own insurance policy—if you have the proper coverage. But there can be downsides as well. The insurance company might raise your insurance premium or even cancel your policy if you make a claim. Speak to your insurance agent first to investigate possible claim-filing complications.
Say you're hurt by an uninsured motorist. If you have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, you can file a claim to collect benefits under your UM policy. You'll have to prove that the uninsured driver was at fault and document your injuries and damages.
The insurance company might fight your claim. If that happens, or if the case involves complex issues or serious injuries, think about hiring a lawyer to handle it for you.
Collision coverage, if you have it, will take care of the costs to repair or replace your auto, up to your policy limit. Collision insurance is a type of "no-fault" coverage, meaning it pays even if you were to blame for the accident. (You'll have to pay your collision deductible.)
If the at-fault driver doesn't was uninsured and you don't have UM coverage or you were at fault, you still might have options to help pay your medical bills and cover some of your lost income.
MedPay. Medical payments (MedPay) insurance—though not required by Wyoming law—will pay at least some of your medical expenses. Benefits typically are limited to a few thousand dollars.
Health insurance. Health insurance (whether employer-provided or coverage you buy on your own) will usually pay at least some of your medical bills, subject to any deductible or co-pay.
Disability insurance. If you can't work for an extended time after an accident, you might have employer-provided (or your own) disability insurance that can help cover some of your lost income. But it's likely to take a while—weeks or even months—to collect disability benefits.
Your options for making a claim against your own insurance are probably more limited if you were hurt in, say, a slip-and-fall accident or by a negligent doctor. (Ideally, you'd be able to get compensation from the responsible party or their insurance.)
Health or disability insurance (covered above) can pay for medical bills and lost income, but you probably won't have any other insurance to cover out-of-pocket costs or pay for damages like pain and suffering.
If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, talk to a personal injury lawyer in your area. You can also learn more about personal injury lawsuits, settlements, alternatives to resolving your case in court, and more:
- Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
- Determining Fault in a Personal Injury Case
- What Are Mediation and Arbitration?
- Tips for Getting the Best Personal Injury Settlement
- The Deposition in a Personal Injury Case
- Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer or Handle Your Own Claim?
- Common Kinds of Personal Injury Cases