Wyoming Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Wyoming, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the State of Wyoming statutes directory in each section and search for the specific statute number.

Here are the Wyoming car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way by slowing down or stopping if need be to yield, to any pedestrian within or entering a crosswalk at either edge of the roadway.
Section 31-5-602

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Section 31-5-603

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don't Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Flashing or steady Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Flashing or steady Don't Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don't Walk signal is showing.
Section 31-5-404

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
Section 31-5-603

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Section 31-5-605

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle crossing a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and all other traffic on the sidewalk.
Section 31-5-609

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle crossing a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and all other traffic on the sidewalk.
Section 31-5-609

Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance to a degree which renders them a hazard must not walk or be on a highway.
Section 31-5-612

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 31-5-402

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Section 31-5-201

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Section 31-5-203

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Section 31-5-204

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
Section 31-5-201

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Section 31-5-210

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to read, write, or send text-based communications, except to contact emergency services.
Section 31-5-236

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
Section 31-5-220

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 31-5-221

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers and cyclists on the roadway to be crossed.
Section 31-5-223

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Section 31-5-702

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Section 31-5-115

"Lane Splitting"

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
Section 31-5-115

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists less than 21 years of age and all passengers less than 21 years of age must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Section 31-5-115

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one headlight turned on at all times.
Section 31-5-115 and 31-5-912

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Careless Driving

No person is permitted to drive in a manner that lacks due and diligent care and creates an unreasonable risk of harm to other persons or property.
Section 31-5-236

Reckless Driving

A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Section 31-5-229

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02% or higher.
Section 31-5-234

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person involved in the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 31-5-1103

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person involved in the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 31-5-1101

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting only in property damage must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person involved in the accident.
Section 31-5-1102

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, and vehicle registration number. If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, and vehicle registration number
Section 31-5-1104

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $1,000 or more, or rendering a vehicle inoperable must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest law enforcement authority.
Section 31-5-1105

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

Every police officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily injury to or death of any person or total property damage of $1,000.00 or more must forward a written report of the accident to the highway department within ten (10) days after their investigation of the accident.
Section 31-5-1106

Accident Report Forms

The highway department must prepare and upon request supply to police departments, coroners, sheriffs and other suitable agencies or individuals, forms for accident reports. The written reports to be made by investigating officers must call for detailed information about the cause of the traffic accident, conditions then existing and the persons and vehicles involved.
Section 31-5-1108

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Wyoming roadways.

An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the following areas:

  • The trunk of a vehicle.
  • The rear compartment of a vehicle where it is not accessible to the driver and in an area normally occupied by passengers while the vehicle is in motion.
  • An outside compartment that is not accessible while the vehicle is in motion.
  • The unoccupied back of a pickup truck and out of reach of the driver.
  • Secured in a cabinet or compartment of a recreational vehicle, and the cabinet or compartment is not readily accessible to the driver while the vehicle is in motion. The alcoholic beverage shall remain secured and shall not be accessed by the driver or any passenger at any time the vehicle is in motion.

It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.

Passengers of a hired vehicle can possess an opened container as long as the container is not in the driver's zone of control.
Section 31-5-235

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Wyoming, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Section 31-5-233

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Section 31-7-402

Liability Laws

Wyoming Dram Shop Law

Wyoming has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under Wyoming law, no person who has legally provided alcoholic liquor or malt beverage to any other person is liable for damages caused by the intoxication of the other person. If the person provided alcoholic beverages illegally, in violation of the liquor laws, then they can be liable. For example, providing alcohol to a minor or a visibly intoxicated person would make the provider liable.
Section 12-8-301

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Wyoming, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $25,000 per person
  • At least $50,000 for two or more people
  • $20,000 per occurrence for property damage
Section 31-9-102

Wyoming Insurance Information

For information about auto insurance, see the Wyoming Personal Automobile Insurance Guide available on the Wyoming Department of Insurance website.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Wyoming, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Section 1-1-109

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 1-1-109
Right of Way: Section 31-5-221
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 31-5-236

Wyoming's Fault-based Car Insurance

In Wyoming, the law gives car owners must purchase liability insurance and the at-fault driver is liable for compensating victims in a car accident. The victim in a car accident can seek compensation for their injuries and property damage by filing a claim with their own insurance company, or they can file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

For information about auto insurance, see the Wyoming Personal Automobile Insurance Guide available on the Wyoming Department of Insurance website.

Statute of Limitations

Wyoming has a four (4) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the four (4) year period following the accident, otherwise the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Section 1-3-105

Small Claims Courts

In Wyoming, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $6,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

For information about filing a small claims case, see the Wyoming State Courts website.
Section 1-21-201

Wyoming Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In Wyoming, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.

The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
Sections 1-39-104 to 1-39-112, 1-39-114 and 1-39-118

Example

If Melissa, an engineer with the Jackson Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Jackson would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Jackson can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Wyoming places caps of $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for one incident as the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees.

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within two years after the accident.
Sections 1-39-104 to 1-39-112, 1-39-114 and 1-39-118
NCSL

Sources

State Government of Wyoming

Wyoming Department of Transportation

Wyoming State Legislature

Wyoming Highway Patrol

Governors Highway Safety Association

Wyoming Bar Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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