Nobody should ever go through the mental anguish and heartbreak of losing a loved one because of the negligent or reckless actions of another party. Unfortunately, there are numerous preventable accidents that occur in New Mexico. Whether it’s a car accident, motorbike accident, or medical malpractice, negligence, carelessness, and recklessness take far too many lives in the state.
At FDB Law Firm, our seasoned Rio Rancho wrongful death lawyers handle all sorts of wrongful death cases. We know that no amount of money can ever make up for your loss. At the same time, we know it’s important for you to provide protection and support to your loved ones. Allow our compassionate personal injury lawyers to handle your claim as your focus on your family. Call us today at (505) 842-9960 for a free initial consultation.
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How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of New Mexico?
According to the state’s statutes section 41-2-1, New Mexico defines wrongful death as one caused by negligent act, wrongful act, or default. This includes deaths caused due to a wrongful act that leads to a felony under the state’s law.
You can think of wrongful death as a personal injury claim the deceased is unable to make on their own. Instead, their loved ones make the claim and establish the defendant’s liability with the aim of seeking damages.
In some claims, a federal or state prosecutor will make criminal charges for homicide against the party at fault. Keep in mind that you can still file a wrongful death claim even if a criminal case is filed. However, since wrongful death claims can be affected by criminal charges in several ways, it is advisable to consult a lawyer with experience in this field of law.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Case in New Mexico?
A wrongful death claim in New Mexico has to be filed by a personal representative of the deceased individual’s state. More often than not, the personal representative is an individual named in the estate plan of the deceased. This can be the surviving spouse or adult siblings. If there’s no estate plan or representative named, the jury will intervene and appoints a personal representative.
Even though the representative is responsible for filing the claim, the damages rewarded are held by the estate for the benefit of the deceased family members:
- If there’s a surviving spouse but no kids, all the proceeds go to the spouse
- If there’s a surviving spouse and kids or grandchildren, the proceeds are split in half.
- If there are surviving children or grandchildren and no spouse, the damages are divided among the kids
- If the deceased individual has no children or spouse, or if the children are under 18, the damages go to the parents of the deceased.
- If the deceased has no surviving children, spouse, or parents, the damages are awarded to their siblings.
What Type of Damages Can You Recover?
You are eligible for various types of damages depending on the specific case. Types of damages you can recover from a wrongful death case are categorized into the following:
- Economic Damages – any direct monetary losses, including medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of wages, etc.
- Non-Economic Damages – These include loss of love, companionship, consortium, mental anguish, etc. They are subjective and non-monetary in nature.
- Punitive Damages – These are meant to punish the party at fault and discourage others from engaging in similar behavior.
Can the Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
New Mexico’s state law allows beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate, which are usually surviving family members, to file for punitive damages through the estate’s representative. However, it’s important to note that punitive damages are not available in all wrongful death cases. Every wrongful death case is different, and punitive damages are different from other types of damages.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate for a loss but instead are meant to punish the defendant for their willful or reckless conduct. They are also meant to deter others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
How is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
To prove negligence for a wrongful death claim in New Mexico, you need to prove the following aspects:
Duty of Care
Prove that the defendant owed a duty of care in the situation that leads to death. As an example, every motorist is expected to drive in a careful and responsible manner.
Breach of Duty of Care
Also, you should prove the defendant violated or breached the duty of care. This can be through a specific action or failure to do what another reasonable individual in the same situation would have done. An example is when a driver operates a car while under the influence or drunk.
You need to prove that their death was a result of the defendant’s actions. For example, while a motorist breaches their duty to others by driving under while drunk, they cannot be held responsible for a death caused by defective car parts.
Lastly, you need to show that the injuries and ultimate death of your family member resulted in certain damages and losses compensable by law.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
In case you lose a family member due to the deliberate or negligent acts of another person or entity, you should get in touch with our lawyers as soon as possible to help you file a claim.
First and foremost, you need to create an estate on behalf of the deceased. Also, you need to identify the estate’s personal representative. However, you don’t need a representative to file a claim
Once the defendant is identified and you have collected the right evidence, the lawyer will help initiate the legal process.
Keep in mind that you have a maximum of three years to file a wrongful death claim in New Mexico, or the case will be rendered null.
Contact an Experienced Rio Rancho Wrongful Death Lawyer!
If a loved dies due to the negligence of another party, you should aggressively fight for their rights. The best approach is to hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer. FBD Law Firm has been serving clients for over 40 years and is dedicated to helping families in New Mexico recover the compensation they deserve. Get in touch today and schedule a free consultation by calling us at (505) 842-9960!