Wyoming is known as the Cowboy state and its rugged nature creates many challenges and opportunities for its residents and visitors. However, the medical malpractice insurance market is not as rough as the state’s reputation. While there are fewer doctors in Wyoming than in many other states, there is a high quality of healthcare in the cities and concentrated areas. Like many other Western states with low population numbers and vast open country, Wyoming has a low number of malpractice claims and the severity of the claims is low compared to the rest of the U.S. Part of this physician-friendly climate can be attributed to the focus on patient safety by the healthcare community and part of it can be credited to the patient compensation fund established by the state to help limit the financial liability of physicians involved in malpractice cases.
Very few new reforms regarding malpractice claims have been enacted in Wyoming. A patient compensation fund was established in 1997. Also there is a limitation of attorney fees depending on how soon cases are settled. And there is a requirement that malpractice cases be reviewed by a medical panel before a lawsuit can be filed. However, the state of Wyoming does not have limits or caps on damages for medical malpractice claims in any category. At one time there was mandatory arbitration of all malpractice claims in Wyoming but it was declared unconstitutional in 1988.
The basic statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case in Wyoming is two years from the date of the alleged injury. However, if the injury was not discovered until after the event (assuming due diligence) the claimant can file a suit within two years of discovery of the alleged injury.
Further, if the claimant is a minor he or she may file anytime up to his or her eighth birthday. Likewise, if the claimant is unable to file due to some type of disability he or she may file within a year of the removal of the disability. Finally, wrongful death claims are also governed by a two year statute of limitations from the time of death.
The medical liability patient compensation fund was created in 1997 to protect physicians from excessive malpractice awards. Physicians must carry a minimum liability limit of $50,000 per claim on their own professional liability policy, and then pay a surcharge to the compensation fund, which covers any claim exceeding $50,000 up to a maximum of $1,000,000. The physician’s liability is limited to $50,000 or the amount of liability insurance the physician carries, whichever is greater.