If you’re ever involved in an auto accident in Montana or Wyoming, it’s important to understand how insurance, insurance laws and recovery of damages works. This is true regardless of whether you’re the driver at fault or an innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.
Wyoming and Montana are both “fault” states when it comes to auto accidents. That means someone will be named as being principally at fault for the accident in the police report covering the incident. The at-fault driver is the one who is liable for all injuries and property damage caused in the accident. Usually the at-fault driver’s insurance pays for all relevant damages up to the limits of the driver’s policy and the remaining damages become the personal responsibility of the at-fault driver.
By contrast, some states, like Michigan and New York, are “no-fault” states. In these states, all drivers involved in an accident are entitled to recovery of damages from their own insurance company regardless of who was at fault and only in cases of very severe injuries are victims permitted to sue the driver at fault.
In both Wyoming and Montana individuals who are not at fault for the accident have three options for recovering damages for injuries or property damage they suffered:
Accidents involving serious injuries almost always involve a lawsuit of some sort in order for injury victims to recover the appropriate damages. Many drivers do not carry enough insurance to cover damages from serious injuries or deaths as damages go beyond medical costs to include loss of income, pain and suffering and other economic and non-economic damages that quickly escalate the extent of damages.
But even when the at-fault driver does carry sufficient insurance, the insurance company often attempts to minimize their costs by denying claims, reducing the amount of claims, or attempting to settle for far less than the total value of a claim. This can occur even if the victim files a claim with their own insurance claim. For more information about this, see these previous articles:
Montana and Wyoming both have minimum requirements for automotive insurance in order to drive legally. Minimum insurance requirements for both states are as follows:
In Montana, drivers can also opt to self-insure themselves or purchase a surety bond in lieu of purchasing insurance. However, this results in the driver being personally liable for all injuries and damages if they are found at fault for an accident. Wyoming does not offer this option; insurance is mandatory.
The minimum insurance amounts listed above are usually enough to cover most small accidents involving minimal injuries and minor damage to vehicles or property. However, accidents involving serious injuries, such as those that result in long-term hospitalization, permanent disability or brain damage, can easily rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and other damages. If more than one person is injured in a serious accident, the liability can mount into millions of dollars.
Additionally, if a person happens to be injured in a hit-and-run accident or the at-fault driver has minimum or no insurance, an injury victim not covered by an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist policy will have little or no ability to recover damages.
It is a good idea for every driver to carry more than the minimum required auto insurance. Policies should include uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage and as much liability coverage as the driver can reasonably afford. Personal injury protection is also advisable as this will ensure that your medical costs are covered in an accident if you are at fault or regardless of the at-fault driver’s insurance status.
As we said above, serious auto accidents almost always involve lawsuits. Whether you need to recover damages from another driver or your own insurance company, having a skilled and experienced attorney on your side can minimize hassle and ensure the best settlement or damages award possible.
The personal injury attorneys at Stinson Law Group have extensive experience helping people obtain insurance benefits and damages from insurance companies and at-fault drivers. Call the personal injury lawyers at Stinson Law Group toll free today for a free consultation: (888) 527-6090.