Discover the traps and pitfalls of Wyoming's insurance rules
Dive into the specifics of Wyoming's auto insurance requirements, the implications of driving uninsured, and the nuances of dealing with insurance adjusters.
Whether you’re one of the roughly 430,000 drivers licensed in Wyoming or you’re a visitor driving within state lines, understanding the auto insurance mandates can save you from harsh penalties and help secure the financial compensation you need following a Wyoming car accident.
Wyoming’s auto insurance requirements
Wyoming law requires every driver to carry auto liability insurance. This requirement helps protect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians from bearing the full brunt of financial hardships that may follow an accident.
Here’s a breakdown of the minimum coverage required under Wyoming Statute Section 31-9-102:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident if multiple people are injured
- $20,000 for property damage
These figures indicate the minimum coverage required. However, expenses arising from accidents often surpass these limits. When costs exceed these minimums, the at-fault driver becomes personally responsible for paying the additional expenses beyond their policy's coverage. Consequently, many drivers choose policies with higher coverage limits for greater financial protection.
Learn more about auto liability insurance, including what it does and does not cover.
Penalties for uninsured driving in Wyoming
Driving without insurance in Wyoming is a serious offense. First-time offenders can expect the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $1,500
- Up to 6 months in jail
Subsequent offenses bring even harsher penalties, including the suspension of driving privileges.
The most severe consequence of driving without insurance, however, is that uninsured drivers who cause an accident are personally liable for all of the damages that result.
Learn more about civil judgments, including the tools attorneys can use to collect judgments.
Optional insurance coverage
Along with additional liability insurance, drivers in Wyoming can purchase the following optional coverage:
- Comprehensive coverage provides coverage for losses other than those caused by a collision (vandalism, falling objects, fire, etc.).
- Collision coverage provides coverage for damage to your vehicle caused by an accident with another vehicle or an object (such as a light pole).
- Gap insurance: When you lease or finance a car, considering gap insurance is prudent. Vehicles often lose value rapidly, and this policy covers the discrepancy between your car's current market value and the remaining balance on your loan. It effectively shields you from the financial burden of paying more than the car's current worth.
- MedPay provides coverage for medical expenses incurred by you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault.
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving an uninsured driver.
- Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage provides coverage for bodily injury and property damage sustained by you or the passengers in your vehicle as a result of an accident involving a driver who has insufficient insurance to cover the damages.
Understanding Wyoming’s “at-fault” rules
In the unfortunate event of an automobile accident, Wyoming follows the at-fault system. This system means that the party responsible for causing the car accident is also responsible for any resulting harm.
Consequently, you have three options to recover damages following a car accident that wasn’t your fault:
- File an insurance claim with your own insurance company (in this situation, your insurance company will turn around and pursue reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company)
- File a third-party insurance claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or
- File a personal injury lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver.
Unfortunately, if the driver who caused the accident doesn’t have insurance, your only option is to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver for any amount that exceeds your uninsured motorist coverage (if you have it).
The role of comparative negligence in auto accidents
Wyoming’s approach to handling cases where both parties bear a portion of the blame for the accident is through the doctrine of modified comparative fault.
Under the doctrine, your award for damages is reduced by your percentage of fault. What’s more, if you’re found 51 percent at fault or more, you’re prohibited from recovering ANY damages.
For instance, if you’re deemed 30 percent at fault for an accident and incurred $10,000 of damages, you would only be eligible to receive $7,000 after the 30 percent reduction.
Understanding insurance implications when others drive your car in Wyoming
In Wyoming, your car's liability insurance covers damages if someone else causes an accident while driving it. If damages exceed your policy's limits, the driver’s insurance can offer additional coverage. Collision and comprehensive insurance are typically tied to your car, too.
However, medical payments (MedPay) follow the driver. To avoid surprises, always check your policy details with your agent before letting someone borrow your car, ensuring both the driver and your vehicle are protected.
The role of the insurance adjuster in Wyoming
If you report an accident to your insurance company, you’ll be contacted by an insurance adjuster. Their job is to investigate the accident details, which involves reviewing medical reports, speaking with witnesses, and assessing vehicle damage.
Adjusters frequently make an initial offer that might seem reasonable but is typically far lower than what your claim is truly worth. This strategy exploits the fact that many individuals are not fully aware of their damages or are eager to settle the matter swiftly, especially under financial strain. Accepting this initial offer can waive your right to ask for more money later, even if you incur additional expenses.
It’s important to keep in mind that the adjuster represents the interests of the insurance company, not you. They’re skilled negotiators, trained to settle claims quickly and economically.
A common tactic used by insurance adjusters is requesting a recorded statement. While they may claim this is a standard procedure, providing a recorded statement without legal advice is a potential pitfall. You are not legally obligated to agree to be recorded. Anything you say can be analyzed and potentially used to undermine your claim.