The unexpected passing of a loved one is always challenging to cope with. If you’ve learned the death resulted because of the actions of another, it’s likely your family will have an even harder time coming to terms with what happened. Fortunately for families of wrongful death victims in New Mexico, you have the right to demand compensation from the party responsible for your loved one’s passing. Our Albuquerque wrongful death lawyers are prepared to represent you and help you through the claims process.
Defining Wrongful Death in New Mexico
In order to qualify as a wrongful death, it must be proven that the deceased lost their life as a result of a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. Wrongful acts are proven with the concept of negligence—like if a driver runs a stop sign and kills a pedestrian. Neglect is often present in the wrongful deaths of nursing home residents, where staff members didn’t tend to the person’s needs. Default of another refers to someone failing to take an appropriate action that leads to the death of another person—like in a premises liability case.
You may feel as though filing a wrongful death claim is wrong, but it’s important to understand that the purpose is not to benefit financially off of someone’s death. The compensation is supposed to provide assistance to the surviving family members who depended on the person who died. In addition to that, they serve as a warning to the negligent party and those in the community to avoid taking similar actions in the future.
Fatal Accident Examples
Any number of circumstances can result in the unpredicted loss of life. With a civil case, the majority of accidents are the result of careless, irresponsible, or negligent behavior. A significant number of claims are filed after fatal car accidents. Just in 2017, 380 people were killed in New Mexico as a result of traffic crashes.
No matter the accident that resulted in your loved one’s passing, you have the right to file a claim on their behalf to seek recovery for the incurred losses.
State Laws That Could Impact a Wrongful Death Claim
It’s important to understand that there are a number of state laws that could impact the claim your family’s personal representative files. Our wrongful death attorneys have a comprehensive understanding of the state laws, and we’ll be sure to explain the rules to you as they apply to the claim.
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 compensation is likely to be based on who the heirs will be and what their needs are now and in the future.
Common surviving family members entitled to compensation include spouses, children, parents, and siblings. In general, the spouse receives all the compensation if there are no children. If there are children, they split the compensation with the spouse or keep it if there is no spouse. Parents are eligible for wrongful death benefits if the deceased was a minor, childless, or unmarried. Siblings are only eligible in the event there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent.
If there is no one that fits the traditional descriptions detailed above, a judge may decide to make payments to anybody else who is next of kin. Depending on your family’s situation, it can be challenging to determine benefits eligibility. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have a lawyer by your side.
In New Mexico, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate has the right to file the claim on behalf of the family. If the decedent had an estate plan drawn up prior to their death, it’s likely they’ll have named an executor or representative. If they did now, however, the court will appoint one.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations establishes how long you have to take legal action. In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, however, there are exceptions—like in the event injuries that caused the death weren’t discovered until the person had already passed. Your lawyer will know exactly how long you have based on the circumstances of your case. If you neglect to file on time, your case will be dismissed without review and you’ll render your family ineligible for compensation.
Compensation for the Loss of a Loved One
Functioning similarly to personal injury claims, wrongful death claims seek compensation to help the family recover from the loss of their loved one and hold the negligent party accountable for their actions. While every situation is different, the claim you file may be eligible for the following damages:
- Funeral and Burial Expenses. The average funeral can cost a family anywhere between $7,000 to $10,000—which includes funeral services, burial, and installation of a headstone. While it’s possible a life insurance policy could cover those expenses, not everyone has life insurance. When a wrongful death claim is filed, the personal representative can seek reasonable compensation for those costs. If found liable, the defendant would be responsible for paying those expenses in accordance with the deceased’s end-of-life wishes.
- Medical Bills. Depending on the accident that resulted in someone’s passing, 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 is still responsible for paying back the hospital or medical facility.
- Lost Income. 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 attorney can look into what your loved one would have been reasonably expected to earn had they survived.
- Noneconomic Damages. In addition to the economic losses of a wrongful death, the family is likely to suffer emotionally. Noneconomic damages for surviving family members can cover pain and suffering, and loss of consortium, companionship, or guidance.
- Punitive Damages. 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 the judge will consider awarding punitive damages. They serve to punish the guilty party for their actions and discourage them from acting in a similar fashion in the future.
As you’re dealing with the loss of your loved one, it can be challenging to recognize the total effect their passing has had on your family. Our lawyers have extensive experience valuing wrongful death cases, and we’ll ensure you receive the compensation you need to move forward comfortably.
We’ll Fight for Your Family’s Rights
No matter the circumstances of your loved one’s passing, if their 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 wrongful death lawyers. We understand how sensitive wrongful death 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 us today. We’ll discuss the merits of your case and help you decide how best to proceed.