The unexpected passing of a loved one can leave you with mental anguish. You may find it challenging to cope with their loss. If you’ve learned the death resulted because of someone else’s negligence, it’s likely your family will have an even harder time coming to terms with what happened.
While recovering compensation won’t bring your loved one back, it is the primary recourse that New Mexico law affords surviving spouses, minor children, and other close family members for seeking some semblance of justice for their untimely loss. A decedent’s personal representative can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of that individual’s surviving children, spouse, or specific other relatives.
Defining Wrongful Death in New Mexico
A common question that the personal injury attorneys at our law firm receive is what constitutes a wrongful death. The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act describes how a plaintiff must prove that a decedent passed away due to a wrongful act, such as neglect or default of another.
The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act goes on to describe how a death is deemed as wrongful when it stems from someone else’s negligence.
How Criminal Negligence May Give Way to Someone Filing a Wrongful Death Case
If a motorist runs a stop sign and strikes a pedestrian, killing them can warrant the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit. Although a driver may not have had the criminal intent to harm someone else, claiming their life, their moving violation left someone deceased, nonetheless. Filing a wrongful death case may allow you, as a surviving relative of the deceased, to hold a negligent individual accountable for their actions outside of how the criminal justice system handles them.
How Neglect May Warrant the Filing of an Albuquerque Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Neglect can also warrant the filing of a wrongful death action. Neglect is often cited as a factor in wrongful death lawsuits involving deceased nursing home residents. An Albuquerque wrongful death attorney may allege that staff members didn’t tend to the resident’s needs thus resulting in their premature death.
How Default of Another Warrants the Filing of a Wrongful Death Claim
The default of another concept refers to someone failing to take appropriate action that leads to the preventable death of another person. It’s not uncommon for Albuquerque, NM property owners to be sued for wrongful death in instances like this. Injury incidents would generally be filed solely as premises liability cases.
Other Types of Fatal Accidents That Result in New Mexico Wrongful Death Claims
Any number of circumstances, such as the careless, irresponsible, or negligent operation of a vehicle, can result in the unpredicted loss of life. A significant number of wrongful death claims are filed after a fatal accident such as a car crash. Data published by the New Mexico Department of Transportation in 2021 captured how 479 people died in traffic crashes.
New Mexico Laws That Could Impact a Wrongful Death Claim
It’s important to understand that New Mexico law could impact the type of claim your family’s personal representative files. Our Albuquerque wrongful death attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of New Mexico law and will be sure to explain the rules to you as they apply to wrongful death claims.
Wrongful Death Claim Entitlement
When a wrongful death claim is brought before a court, a judge or jury will decide the verdict on the basis of the evidence presented. The monetary compensation is likely to be based on who the heirs will be and what their needs are now and in the future.
Family members most commonly entitled to compensation include a surviving spouse, children, parents, and siblings. In general, the surviving spouse receives all the compensation if there are no children. If there are children, they split the compensation with the surviving spouse, or the kids keep it if there isn’t a spouse.
Parents are eligible for wrongful death benefits if the deceased person was a minor, childless, or unmarried at the time of their passing. Siblings are only eligible to recover compensation if there isn’t any surviving spouse, child, or parent.
If there is no one that fits the traditional descriptions detailed above, then a judge may decide to make payments to the next of kin. Depending on your family’s situation, it can be challenging to determine eligibility for compensation and other benefits. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to have an Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer from Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm by your side.
In New Mexico, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate has the right to file the wrongful death claim on his or her behalf.
If the decedent, such as an adult child, had estate planning documents, like a will, drawn up prior to their death, it’s likely they’ll have named an executor or personal representative. If they did, then that person will be responsible for filing the will with the probate court and managing the deceased’s estate.
However, if they didn’t, the Court will appoint a personal representative to administer the deceased person’s estate. That person will be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they deem it appropriate to do so.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations establishes how long surviving children, spouses, and other relatives (or the personal representative) have to take legal action following their loved one’s death. In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
There are some exceptions to this wrongful death statute of limitations. One example is if the injury incident that resulted in the wrongful death wasn’t discovered until the person had already passed.
Your Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer will know exactly how long you have to file a wrongful death lawsuit based on the circumstances of your personal injury case. If you neglect to file a lawsuit on time, then your wrongful death case will be dismissed without review and you’ll render your family ineligible to claim compensation in New Mexico.
Wrongful Death Compensation for the Loss of a Loved One
Functioning similarly to personal injury claims, wrongful death claims seek fair compensation to help a deceased person’s surviving family members recover from the loss of their loved one and hold the negligent party accountable for their wrongful act.
While every situation is different, you may be eligible to recover the following damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit:
Funeral and Burial Expenses
The average funeral can cost a family anywhere between $7,000 to $10,000—which includes burial expenses and the installation of a headstone. While it’s possible that a life insurance company policy could cover burial expenses and related costs, not everyone has coverage.
When a wrongful death claim is filed with an insurance company, the personal representative can seek reasonable compensation for those funeral and burial expenses. If found liable, the defendant would be responsible for paying those expenses in accordance with the end-of-life wishes of the deceased person.
Depending on the accident that resulted in your loved one’s death, it’s possible extensive medical bills piled up while life-saving medical intervention was attempted. Even though the care and treatments did not work, the family member is still responsible for paying the hospital or health care facility for the medical expenses.
In the event the decedent provided the primary source of income for a family, it’s likely for serious financial troubles to arise. Your family’s Albuquerque wrongful death attorney can look into what your loved one would have been reasonably expected to earn across their lifetime had they survived.
In addition to the economic losses stemming from a loved one’s wrongful death, surviving family members often experience pain and suffering, mental anguish, and a loss of consortium, companionship, or guidance. Your wrongful death lawyer may advise you of how personal injury lawsuits like wrongful death claims allow you to demand noneconomic damages such as these.
There are situations that result in death because of gross negligence. If, for example, your loved one died in a drunk driving accident, it’s possible that a New Mexico judge will consider awarding punitive damages. They serve to punish the guilty party for their wrongful act and discourage them from acting in a similar fashion in the future.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Will Fight for Your Family Member Rights
No matter the circumstances of your loved one’s passing, if his or her death was caused by the actions or inactions of another, filing a personal injury claim may be the only way to ensure your family has the means to move on.
Because the process is so complex, we recommend working with one of our Albuquerque, NM wrongful death lawyers here at Buckingham Barrera Vega Law Firm. We understand how sensitive filing a New Mexico wrongful death claim or pursuing litigation can be, and we’re prepared to provide you with the representation you need and deserve to receive full and fair compensation.
To learn more about your options after the tragic passing of a loved one, schedule a meeting with one of our Albuquerque personal injury lawyers today. We’ll discuss the merits of your wrongful death case and help you decide how best to proceed.