Nobody wants to get into a car accident, but there are over 13,000 crashes a year on Wyoming roads. Whether through road and weather conditions, faulty car equipment, or distracted driving, accidents can result in expensive car repairs, lost wages, personal injury, medical bills, and death. It’s important to be aware of your rights if the worst happens, so if you’re considering consulting with a car wreck lawyer, here are five things you should know.
Ask a Car Wreck Lawyer: 5 Things to Know About Car Accident Law in Wyoming
1. The Accident Must Be Reported
Under Wyoming law, a significant traffic accident must be reported to the nearest law enforcement agency by the quickest means of communication. This is usually by making a call on a cell phone, either by dialing 911 or contacting the relevant agency directly. According to Wyoming Statutes Section 31-5-1105, an accident should be reported if:
- It results in injury or death to any person
- Property appears to have suffered $1,000 of damage or more
- A vehicle has been disabled.
Who Responds to a Reported Accident?
Depending on where the accident happened, different agencies may respond. On a public roadway, it will most likely be the county sheriff’s department or Wyoming Highway Patrol, in a town it will probably be the municipal police, and in a national park, the accident will be attended by the park rangers.
What Will Responding Agencies Do?
The responding agency in the case of an accident will usually draft a report, with numerical codes relating to aspects of the crash. They may also offer an opinion about the causes of the accident. If the other person is arrested or receives a citation, this may trigger a settlement offer from their insurance firm, although you should still consult with a lawyer to ensure that this is a full and fair offer.
If the accident has involved injury, death, or more than $1,000 of apparent damage, the highways department should receive a report from the law enforcement officer within ten days of the incident.
2. There’s a Time Limit on Legal Action
After the accident, the statute of limitations means that there’s a time limit on filing a claim, and the clock starts on the date of the accident. There are over 100 fatal car accidents a year in Wyoming. If the worst happens and the crash results in the death of a loved one, there are two years following the date of death in which to bring a wrongful death claim.
For a lawsuit over injuries or damage to a vehicle or property, Wyoming allows four years in which to file a claim for damages, starting from the date of the crash. Once the statute of limitations has passed, the case is likely to be dismissed and you won’t be entitled to any damages, so if you’re considering consulting a car wreck lawyer in Jackson Wyoming, it’s important to do so in a timely fashion.
3. There’s a “Comparative Negligence” Rule
Wyoming is a 51% rule modified comparative negligence state, which means that all parties in the crash will be assigned a percentage of the responsibility. This includes you, and if you are deemed more than 50% responsible for the accident, you will not be able to make a claim. If you are found to have a smaller share of negligence in an accident, you will still be awarded damages, but they will be reduced by the percentage of your share of the fault.
4. Insurance Coverage Plays a Key Role
Drivers on Wyoming roads are legally required to ensure that they have sufficient liability insurance on their vehicle, and failure to do so will result in imprisonment or a heavy fine. A liability policy is used to cover the possibility of injury or property damage to the other party if the accident is caused by the policyholder.
If your accident was the fault of the other driver and they had insurance, then damages will be paid by their insurance company up to the limit of their liability coverage, which must be at least $50,000 for total bodily injury and death and $20,000 for property damage in Wyoming.
5. You Can Be Compensated for Various Damages
If you are the injured party in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. These could include:
- Repair costs
- Replacement costs
- Rental car hire
- Loss of earnings
- Medical bills
- Pain, disability, or emotional distress
Car accident claims depend heavily on the circumstances and can involve complex legal wrangling between insurance companies, so it’s essential to ensure that you have proper legal representation and a clear picture of your options. Crashes can range from inconvenient, to costly, traumatic, and devastating, but knowing your rights and responsibilities means that you’ll be in the best position to respond if it happens to you.