Of the fifty states, twelve have a no-fault system of auto accident laws. In a no-fault system, drivers file their claims with their own insurance companies after an accident, and they are reimbursed regardless of whether they were at fault. Drivers under this system are required to carry insurance because, under state law, they have no right to sue for damages resulting from most auto accidents. In theory, this system keeps the courts clear of motor vehicle cases.
Wyoming does not use this system. It is an at-fault state. Motor vehicle accident claims in Wyoming fall under the same system of personal injury laws, or tort laws, as other injury claims. A driver in a Wyoming car accident has the right to sue the other involved parties for their damages. In practice, auto insurance companies settle most accident claims. A driver files a claim with the insurance company of the other driver in the accident, although they may also carry certain types of first-party insurance that offer immediate compensation on their own policy.
By law, Wyoming drivers must carry “proof of financial responsibility,” and people generally do this with an auto insurance policy meeting the state’s mandatory coverage minimums:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury to one person
- $50,000 liability coverage for bodily injury to two or more people in any one accident
- $20,000 liability coverage for property damage
Liability insurance does not address your own needs but those of the injured parties in the accident. These minimum totals may not be enough to meet their costs. Medical bills for a moderate or severe injury for just a single person might surpass the minimum, and auto repair and replacement costs continue to rise. As the injured parties can sue you for any damages above the insurance coverage, it is wise to consider buying more coverage for injuries and property damage to others, as well as to meet your immediate needs.
These insurance options can cover your own needs, often without a fault determination:
- Uninsured motorist coverage
Provides you with protection against uninsured or underinsured drivers. Wyoming insurance agents are required to offer this coverage, although a driver is not required to accept it.
- Medical payments coverage
Covers medical expenses for you or for your passengers in the event of an accident, as well as funeral expenses where necessary. It may also cover your costs if you are struck as a pedestrian or a bicycle rider.
- Collision insurance
Covers the damage your vehicle sustains in a traffic accident—colliding with other cars or obstacles, as well as rollovers.
- Comprehensive insurance
Covers damage or destruction that did not take place in a traffic accident. This generally includes storms, hail, vandalism, theft, and similar occurrences.
In Wyoming, we have what is called a “modified comparative fault” system for the recovery of damages. A claimant can sue the other party for their damages, but they can only recover those damages to the degree that they themselves were not at fault in the incident. For example, if someone had $10,000 worth of damages, and a court found that they were 30% at fault, they could only recover 70% of their damages—that is, $7,000. Moreover, if a claimant is found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover at all.
Technically, it is a judge or jury’s job to determine the percentage of fault, but since most car accidents are handled through insurance companies, it is the insurance adjuster who makes this determination. An insurance adjuster reviews the evidence, such as statements, police reports, and photos of the site; they may visit the site if it was a major accident. They then determine the percentage of fault for the parties that, according to their analysis, the court would find in the event of a trial. That will be the basis for the insurance company’s offer of settlement—if there is any.
Insurance companies have an incentive to overstate that percentage of fault in order to minimize their own expenses. It is unlikely that an insurance adjuster will be thoroughly fair to the driver filing a claim against their company’s policyholder. Companies will attempt to lowball claimants, delay them, or deny them entirely. That is why it is best to have an experienced auto accident attorney on your side.
An attorney can handle your claim from the beginning, reviewing the evidence with their own expertise and experience. At Platte River Injury Law, we deal with insurance companies every day, and we know how they work. We can protect you from the pressures of the insurance company and push back against an unjust determination of fault or unfair settlement offer. Representation by an attorney improves your chances of maximizing your payout and getting the relief you need.
If you or your loved one have been in an accident in Wyoming—
- with another car
- as a pedestrian
- on a motorcycle or a bicycle
- with a truck or another commercial motor vehicle
—we want to help you. Contact Platte River Injury Law today at 307-224-9378 to schedule a free consultation. Our offices are in Casper, and we also serve the communities of Cheyenne, Gillette, Rawlins, Riverton, and Sheridan.