Losing a loved one due to another person’s negligence is heartbreaking. In addition to dealing with the emotional loss, the deceased’s family may also face bills related to the accident.
A lost loved one cannot be reclaimed through a personal injury lawsuit. However, you can seek financial compensation for emotional and economic harms related to the death. These include medical bills, funeral costs, mental anguish, and other damages resulting from the loss of your loved one.
If you are in this position, you need the help of an Albuquerque wrongful death attorney. They can help file a claim so that those dealing with their loss can begin to move forward. Here is a quick overview of wrongful death in New Mexico and how our attorneys can help you.
What Is a Wrongful Death Suit?
New Mexico Statutes section 41-2-1 defines wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” A lawsuit is possible when this act of negligence leads to loss of life. The deceased’s family may file a wrongful death suit against the at-fault party to cope with emotional and financial losses.
At its core, a wrongful death suit is a personal injury claim that attempts to compensate family members for the loss of their loved ones. The survivors of the deceased can bring the claim to court to establish liability and to seek damages. A wrongful death suit is a civil claim, and completely different from criminal charges with a different level of proof. However, the outcome of a criminal case can affect a civil case. If both are possible, seek help from a wrongful death attorney in Albuquerque before proceeding.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?
New Mexico law dictates that the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate must file the wrongful death claim. If the person had a will, the representative is usually the named executor or executrix. This person is usually a surviving spouse, adult sibling, or other close family member or friend. If no one can or wants to serve as a personal representative, the court will appoint one.
The personal representative is responsible for filing the wrongful death claim, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to any damages. Any damages are awarded to the surviving family members. In New Mexico, these damages are awarded as follows:
- If there is a surviving spouse with no children, all damages to a spouse;
- If there are a surviving spouse and one or more children/grandchildren, half to the spouse and half to the children or grandchildren
- If there is no surviving spouse, but surviving children or grandchildren, damages divided between children/grandchildren according to New Mexico’s right of representation law;
- If there is no spouse or children, damages divided between parents; and
- If there are no parents, damages divided among siblings.
If the person has none of these surviving family members, the damages will go to their estate for distribution to their estate’s beneficiaries.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a New Mexico Wrongful Death Claim?
New Mexico’s wrongful death statute requires a claim to be filed within three years of the deceased’s date of death. This is known as the statute of limitations. If the plaintiff does not file their claim within that time, they are barred from doing so in the future. However, there are certain circumstances where that time period may be extended or tolled. If you are worried that you are too close to the deadline, contact an attorney as soon as possible. They can tell you if a toll might apply or help you formulate another strategy.
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What Are the Possible Damages for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death damages overlap in many ways with other personal injury claims. However, there may be a few differences depending on who benefits from the claim. If liable, the defendant may be forced to pay:
The liable party must pay the deceased person’s final medical expenses. This means any costs related to the deceased’s final illness or injury.
Funeral and Burial Costs
The defendant may also be liable for the preferred funeral and/or burial wishes of the deceased or their family. However, a court will not award exorbitant amounts for a lavish ceremony or burial. They will come up with a number they deem reasonable under the circumstances.
This is a category that may be affected by the surviving family’s relationship with the deceased. For example, if the deceased was the breadwinner for a family with a spouse and children, the wrongful death claim could ask for damages for the loss of financial support. This would typically be based on the amount the deceased would have reasonably expected to earn if they survived.
This category can be tricky. You need proper evidence to make sure you get the fair amount, which often takes an expert. You will likely need the assistance of an Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer to make sure you get just compensation.
Noneconomic and Punitive Damages
This category includes compensation for the emotional pain and suffering that a family experiences when they lose a loved one. Damages include loss of consortium, affection, companionship, and guidance, as well as the overall emotional anguish of losing a loved one. But it can include damages for the suffering the deceased endured as well—for example if the person suffered terrible physical pain before finally passing.
Punitive damages are intended to send a message about a defendant’s conduct. Damages like these are usually awarded for gross negligence, intentionally harmful conduct, or willfully destructive behavior without regard for the safety and welfare of others. But there is no hard and fast rule for punitive damages in New Mexico. It is best to talk to a personal injury attorney to see if they apply in your situation.
How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help Your Claim
Navigating a wrongful death claim can be overwhelming. The laws are complicated and require close attention to the statute of limitations, proof of liability, proof of damages, and more. An attorney can help you evaluate whether pursuing a claim is in your family’s best interest and what damages to seek. Any personal injury case can take a toll on the victims, and this is especially true for a wrongful death claim. Hiring an attorney takes the burden off your shoulders, so you can focus on your family and loved ones. The best Albuquerque wrongful death lawyers know the laws and will fight hard for fair compensation.
Lose a Loved One Due to Someone’s Negligence? Contact an Albuquerque Wrongful Death Attorney Today!
Did a loved one suffer an injury or illness due to someone’s negligence and pass away as a result? We offer our heartfelt condolences and are here to help. Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C., is a personal injury firm that represents clients during rough times, such as after a wrongful death. We take pride in providing our clients compassionate and dedicated legal representation with a personal approach. We are happy to serve Spanish-speaking New Mexicans, as well. Call us at 855-942-7360 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with us today.