Wyoming is home to beautiful roads – like the Bighorn Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway – that offer breathtaking views of the state. Mountains, waterfalls, and rivers greet riders traveling throughout the state.
The least dense state across the lower 48, Wyoming offers residents and visitors alike sprawling national parks, including the famous Yellowstone. Motorcyclists may find the Equality State a perfect place for long, scenic rides.
However, accidents can and do happen. The Wyoming Department of Transportation recorded 231 motorcycle crashes in 2021, a slight 2.1% decrease from 2020. The number of motorcycle-related fatalities declined marginally, too, at 5.3%, from 19 in 2020 to 18 in 2021. Laramie County, home of the state capital, Cheyenne, tallied 2,111 motor vehicle accidents in 2021. It represented 15.2% of all crashes in the state. Natrona County followed closely with a 14.1% share.
Motorcycle accidents can be devastating, both to your well-being and your wallet. Should there be a crash, it is essential to know your legal rights. This article provides information on Wyoming’s statute of limitations and damage caps. It also contains legal resources to help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Wyoming Helmet Laws
Like neighboring Utah and Montana, Wyoming does not strictly enforce the universal helmet law. But it requires those under 18 to wear protective headgear. State law also does not apply to operators of mopeds and enclosed cabs. Likewise, motorcycle operators involved in parades do not need to wear a helmet.
For those who want to use helmets, WYDOT recommends that riders buy ones that cover three-quarters or all of their faces. It also advises that headgear should meet standards set by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Motorcyclists seeking helmets with higher protection can purchase those that come with a label from the Snell Memorial Foundation.
The use of protective headgear is important for riders looking to avoid accidents. In a study that examined motorcycle crashes in the state from 2017 to 2021, 61.9% of all fatalities came from unhelmeted riders.
Motorcyclists must be aware that Wyoming imposes various penalties for first-time offenders. These include a maximum $200 fine and as much as 20 days of jail time.
Safe Following Distance in Wyoming
Motorcyclists should keep their distance when riding on the road and in front of or behind other vehicles, according to WYDOT. The agency advises riders to maintain a two-second gap between them and the vehicle in front. Two seconds is enough to swerve out of the way or halt if the automobile ahead suddenly stops. The time is also suitable for riders aiming to avoid road hazards like potholes.
The state's transportation agency advises maintaining a minimum distance of three seconds or more in dangerous road conditions. Riders must not follow vehicles in front too closely, especially if the road is slippery or visibility is low.
There are other practices that a rider can observe to improve their safety. One of these is using the center part of a lane. This enables drivers of cars to see motorcycles in their rearview mirrors. Another practice is avoiding no-zones. These are areas where truck drivers have limited or zero visibility. A rider following a truck too closely in these no-zones might increase their chances of a collision if the vehicle suddenly turns right while spewing debris like rocks and ice particles.
WYDOT, in a report, cites following too closely as the second most common cause of intersection-related crashes in 2021.
Wyoming Headlight Laws
Motorcycle riders traveling across the state must have their headlights turned on at all times, even during the day. One headlamp should be present for motorcycles that have a width of 50 inches or less.
WYDOT advises riders to adjust their speed to the distance where they can see ahead with their headlights. The agency mentions in its manual for motorcyclists that headlights typically illuminate the road for about 250 feet. Riders may need more time to brake in case of a sudden obstacle if they go faster than 55 miles per hour. WYDOT describes this potentially dangerous situation as "driving blind."
Riders cannot overlook the importance of proper headlight use in a state ranked 10th by State Farm for animal collision risk. According to the insurer, Wyoming motorists have a one in 68 chance of hitting an animal. Most of these crashes happen between the hours of 12 midnight and 6 a.m., as well as between 6 p.m. and 12 midnight.
Fremont County accounts for 10.7% of all wildlife-related crashes in 2021. The county is part of the historic Oregon Trail. It is also the home of Dubois, a gateway town for Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Sharing the Road with Motorcycles in Wyoming
Riders in the Equality State have the right to use a full traffic lane. Other drivers should not travel in a way that deprives motorcyclists of the right to utilize a lane.
Riders also need to comply with laws that allow them to share the road with motorists. One such law is the prohibition on lane splitting. It is illegal to ride motorcycles between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. Interestingly, neighboring states like Utah and Montana do not prohibit the practice. Another fact to consider is that it is unlawful for three motorcycles to travel side-by-side in a single traffic lane.
Sharing the road becomes more critical in cases where there are more motorcyclists on the road than usual. Warmer weather tends to increase the number of riders, according to WYDOT official Jennifer Goodrich. The yearly staging of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is proof of this. The event is held in Sturgis, South Dakota, in August. More than 500,000 visitors from around the world congregate in the city.
As part of its efforts to improve safety among riders, the Wyoming Highway Patrol promotes the #Safe2Sturgis campaign. The outreach program aims to raise awareness about using caution when driving with riders. #Safe2Sturgis is also endorsed by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Wyoming Motorcycle License Requirements
Wyomingites seeking to operate their motorcycles in the state must first obtain a class “M” license from WYDOT. Those with class “A,” “B,” or “C” licenses may also add the “M” classification to their document.
Regardless of whether someone only uses motorcycles or drives cars as well, the process for getting a license is similar. Applicants need to take and pass multiple tests. These are:
A written test. Applicants must correctly identify traffic signs and pavement markings as well as choose the right answer for multiple-choice questions regarding safety rules as part of the process. The written test is given in English; those who cannot write or speak the language may use an interpreter. Test takers who are hard of hearing are allowed to take an oral test.
A vision screening. Wyoming’s vision standards are 20/40 acuity with both eyes and at least 120 degrees of combined horizontal field vision. Those wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses may pass the screening, provided they use their eyewear while riding. Individuals who fail the test need to consult with an eye specialist to get a vision clearance.
A skills test. Examiners will assess individuals for a wide range of abilities during the process, from acceleration and braking to communication and swerving. First-time applicants need to take a skills test. Those with a certification card that demonstrates their completion of an authorized Motorcycle Accident Course can waive the test.
Additional requirements are present for riders with disabilities. Documents like medical certificates from physicians may be requested by WYDOT before it issues a license. The agency can also consult experts like ophthalmologists to determine a licensee’s restrictions.
Wyoming Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
Wyoming law mandates that motorcyclists purchase insurance policies that cover state-set minimum limits. These are:
$25,000 for the injury or death of one person.
$50,000 for the injury or death of two or more people.
$20,000 for property damage.
Similar to its neighbors Montana and Utah, Wyoming does not require riders to buy medical payment coverage, or MedPay for short. This policy add-on allows motorcyclists to handle bills related to their medical treatments. MedPay can also help policyholders deal with their passengers' healthcare bills. However, unlike Utah, the Equality State does not make it mandatory for riders to get personal injury protection insurance.
On the other hand, Wyoming requires insurance companies to offer underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage policies for motorcyclists. Policyholders, though, can reject the offer in writing. Should they choose to buy the add-on, riders can expect the policy to cover $25,000 per person and a maximum of $50,000 per accident.
The Insurance Information Institute ranks Wyoming fifth on its list of states with the lowest number of uninsured motorists. Only 5.8% of motor vehicle operators in the state do not have insurance.
Motorcyclists must always have their insurance documents ready as proof of their financial responsibility. Since 2013, riders may use their smartphones to show insurance documents. Police officers will then use an online system – through the VeriSol VIV software – to verify a motorcyclist’s insurance profile.
Those riding without proof of insurance will face various penalties. These include fines between $250 and $750, a six-month maximum jail time, and license suspension. The penalties increase for second-time offenders, who must deal with fines that range from $500 to $1,500. They also must surrender their license plate to the treasurer of the county where the citation was given.
On average, Wyoming riders pay $354 yearly for motorcycle insurance, according to Ramsey Solutions. The annual premium increases based on multiple factors. These may consist of age, motorcycle type, and gender. Some insurance policies offer lower premiums for individuals with more experience.
Wyoming Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Unlike nearby Utah and South Dakota, Wyoming follows the at-fault system. In such a system, those found liable for motorcycle accidents are responsible for the victim’s damages. The liable party’s insurance company may also receive claims for damages from the plaintiff. In addition, victims can file claims with their insurer if their policy covers damages related to collisions.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Wyoming?
The Wyoming Constitution generally prohibits limits or “caps” on the damages a motorcycle accident victim can receive from at-fault parties. Plaintiffs may seek compensatory damages to help them deal with lost wages and medical expenses. State law also allows victims to receive non-economic damages to aid them in dealing with pain and suffering.
Attorneys may utilize the “multiplier method” to determine the amount of damages for their client’s pain and suffering. For instance, if the victim lost $10,000 in wages, an attorney could argue that the plaintiff’s non-economic damages should be $30,000, three times as much.
However, there are caps in cases involving claims against government entities. Wyoming law currently sets the limit at $250,000 for a plaintiff and $500,000 for an accident.
Wyoming Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
The Equality State adheres to the modified comparative fault system. The damages that plaintiffs in Wyoming can receive depend on their level of fault as opposed to the defendants. However, the state follows the 51% bar rule. Courts will not award damages to plaintiffs if their liability is 51% or more. They may only obtain damages if their fault is 50% or less; the final percentage affects the compensation they can receive from defendants.
To illustrate this concept, let’s say you were hurt in a motorcycle accident. Your damages were determined by the court to total $100,000. If the court decides you are 30% liable for the accident, they will reduce the total by $30,000. Your final award, therefore, is $70,000.
Wyoming Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accident victims have four years from the date of the crash to file a claim against at-fault parties.
Those hurt in the crash may bring a personal injury lawsuit before the courts within the four-year window. Plaintiffs can include passengers, riders, pedestrians, and car drivers. However, in cases involving wrongful death, Wyoming only provides two years for surviving family members to file a claim against liable parties.
The four-year or two-year window does not apply in other cases. For example, in accidents that were caused by public employees or governmental entities, plaintiffs have a year from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
Legal Resources for Wyoming Motorcycle Accident Victims
WYDOT has been improving and maintaining bridges and highways throughout the state since 1991. The agency maintains a website that contains a range of helpful information for motorcyclists, from interactive maps that allow riders to check which roads are poor to web pages that contain application forms. It also uses the website to inform state residents of public hearings. It gives them the option of attending online or in person. Riders seeking to comment about issues like road advisories may do so through the website. They can also dial the agency's number at 1-800-442-9090 to report road hazards after-hours.
Since 1933, the agency has been working to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on Wyoming roads. Over 200 troopers patrol the state’s roadways. Their duties include maintaining roadblocks, providing safety education to motorists, analyzing evidence, and testifying as witnesses in court proceedings. The agency also provides crash reports. Motorcyclists seeking these reports may contact the Wyoming Highway Patrol by calling (307) 777-4450.
The agency regulates the state’s insurance industry and its participants, including agents, pharmacy benefit managers, and brokers. It also investigates customer complaints regarding fraud. The agency runs a website that educates consumers about tips on how to protect themselves from policies sold by unlicensed companies or agents. Riders looking to contact the agency may do so through the website or call them at (307) 777-7401.
The association regulates the state’s legal field and assists attorneys with their practices as part of its mission. It also runs the Lawyer Referral Directory to help Wyomingites with their cases. Motorists looking for assistance with their motorcycle accident cases can find the lawyer directory on the association’s website. The Wyoming State Bar also allows individuals to submit complaints about lawyers regarding their fees or conduct.
Wyoming provides a helpful resource for riders in the form of a downloadable manual. This resource educates motorcyclists about a wide range of topics, from license requirements and road signs to helmet regulations and speed limits. It also contains several illustrations to inform riders about how to travel safely as a group. In addition, the manual includes multiple pages that detail the Equality State’s penalties for motorcyclists who engage in acts like drinking and riding.
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