Life is full of difficulties today, and they do not stop when you are on the road. Texting, phone conversations, and arguments with passengers lead to distracted driving. Long work hours lead to fatigue and inattention. It’s all too easy to get into an accident that you should have seen coming, especially if another driver should have seen it coming too. If you are—or you think you may be—partly at fault for a car accident in Wyoming, you are no doubt worried, frustrated, and facing mounting costs, but you still have options.
Even if you are at fault, you may be able to recover damages on your own behalf for:
- Medical costs
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
Wyoming is what is known as a “modified comparative fault” state. This means that any party who is less than 50% at fault for an accident can recover damages, but the amount of their damages will be reduced by that percentage. For example, someone who is 20% at fault for an accident and has $10,000 worth of damages could recover $8,000 (20% less than their damages).
Who Decides How Much Fault You Have?
By law, that is the job of a judge or jury, but most car accident claims do not go to court. Instead, they are settled between the insurance companies of the parties involved. Insurance adjusters examine the evidence and determine the percentage of fault that they believe each party had. They will interview people and review police reports, photographs, medical records, and other documentation. If it is a major accident, they may travel to the accident site.
The company will then determine fault based on its data analysis. This is the number they will use in negotiations with the other party’s insurer, if any, or with you. Even your own insurance company is not really on your side; it will attempt to settle for as little as possible. An attorney can represent your interests and ensure that you do not take more of your share of the fault for the accident.
Is It Too Late to File a Claim for My Accident?
Be sure to read your policy carefully. Your insurance contract probably has a clause requiring you to file a claim with them as soon as possible after the accident or within a certain number of days. Not doing so can give them a reason to deny your claim. It is also essential to get a medical exam and accept any treatment you may be offered, even if you did not at first feel that you were hurt in the accident. The shock and adrenaline of a car accident can hide injuries that become clear later, such as whiplash, damage to the spine, or psychological trauma. Avoiding medical treatment can be taken as evidence that you were not really injured.
Your insurance contract does not affect your rights to file a lawsuit for damages against another party. You can usually sue for damages within four years of a car accident, as Wyoming has a four-year statute of limitations on filing suit for personal injury or property damage. A wrongful death suit, however, must be filed within two years of the accident. And if one of the parties was a government employee, or the accident involved a road hazard that should have been fixed, you may need to file a claim against the government. Wyoming law and federal law both require government claims to be filed in a much shorter period of time, depending on which branch or agency is responsible.
This is a complex and time-sensitive business, and it is best to have a personal injury attorney on your team as you go through it. Personal injury attorneys work with insurance companies every day, and they are familiar with the stages and typical deadlines in the process. The attorneys at Platte River Law will be glad to talk to you about what happened and what you can do next.