What are the Wrongful Death Laws in New Mexico?
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Losing a loved one is devastating; we at Zinda Law Group are truly sorry for your loss, and we know the loss of a loved one can have costs beyond the mental and emotional. There are financial burdens that come with loss that need to be dealt with. These costs include funerals and burials, as well as medical bills and other expenses that may affect the future financial security of yourself and your family.
If you lost a loved one after an accident, you maybe be wondering, “What happens if someone dies in an accident in New Mexico?” If the accident was the result of another’s negligence or wrongful act, a New Mexico wrongful death lawyer may be able to help you recover the costs.
What is Wrongful Death?
In New Mexico, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. Many types of accidents result in wrongful death; these include car accidents, truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, workplace accidents, and defective products. The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act also covers deaths caused by a wrongful act that would otherwise amount to a felony under state law.
Wrongful Death Statistics
In New Mexico, accidents are the third leading cause of death. In 2017, the CDC published data that found that New Mexico was ranked 5th in the United States for most deaths due to accidents, with 1,460 deaths occurring. The causes of these accidents are typically car accidents, trucking accidents, and slip and fall accidents both in the home and at work.
What is New Mexico’s Wrongful Death Law?
New Mexico’s Wrongful Death Statute covers deaths due to negligence and wrongful acts and can be found under Chapter 41 of the state’s legal code. This statute lays out the rights and remedies of those who file a wrongful death claim. If you have lost a loved one after an accident, or due to the wrongful acts of another, contact a wrongful death lawyer to have these rights and remedies explained to you.
New Mexico is a , and that their negligence resulted in the deceased person’s death.
Car accident death laws in New Mexico are the same as the law governing personal injury cases. The trucking accident death laws in New Mexico are much the same, except in those cases, you may be able to further prove that the employer of the truck driver is also responsible. A wrongful death attorney will be able to assist you in proving negligence and ensuring you receive the maximum compensation you are entitled to on behalf of your deceased loved one.
How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by the surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person or entity. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
In New Mexico, a wrongful death claim is treated as a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the deceased person would have been able to bring a personal injury claim for the accident he or she suffered, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim on his or her behalf. The survivors will be able to bring a claim to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, the defendant’s wrongful act or negligence may lead to criminal charges. Although the other party may be criminally charged, a civil claim for wrongful death can still be brought against them. The interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal questions, so it would be beneficial to discuss your options with a New Mexico wrongful death lawyer, as they will have the expertise regarding the specific laws of the state to guide you through your options.
Who Can File a Claim?
New Mexico law holds that a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate; this personal representative, known as either the executor or administrator of the estate, is often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses or adult siblings of the deceased; if the executor or administrator cannot or will not serve as a personal representative of the deceased’s estate, the court will appoint a personal representative. A wrongful death lawyer will assist the personal representative in the filing of the claim.
When Should the Claim be Filed?
All types of civil claims have their own statute of limitations, which dictates how long a person has the right to file a claim. New Mexico law dictates that a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the date of the deceased’s death; this means that a person has three years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim in New Mexico. After the three-year mark, your wrongful death claim is barred, or not allowed, and you will not be able to recover damages.
There are some circumstances that may “toll” or pause this three-year period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with an experienced wrongful death attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding New Mexico’s statute of limitations.
What Can be Recovered?
There are two kinds of damages that may be recovered in a civil lawsuit; they are punitive and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant. The goal is to deter future wrongful or negligent action on behalf of the defendant and others in their position.
Compensatory damages are meant to cover the costs associated with the wrongful death; these damages are further divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover the out-of-pocket costs of the injury and death, which are the medical costs, funeral costs, lost financial contribution, etc.; non-economic damages cover the emotional cost of the death, such as mental anguish and loss of companionship.
The damages that are available in successful wrongful death cases vary based on an individual’s relationship to the deceased person. Generally, the following types of damages are available in successful wrongful death claims:
Funeral and Burial Expenses
Funerals and burials have become increasingly more expensive over the years. The burden of paying for both costs out-of-pocket can be financially debilitating. You may be able to recover the cost of both as part of the economic damages awarded on your claim.
Medical Expenses Pertaining to the Deceased’s Last Illness or Injury
Your loved one may have died as a result of an illness or injury that occurred prior to death but required costly treatment beforehand. These costs include doctor’s visits, emergency room care, physical therapy and rehabilitation, medical tests, medication, etc. You may be able to recover any out-of-pocket payments you have made for these medical treatments and visits.
Loss of Companionship
Loss of companionship is a loss of the benefits of having someone in your life, such as the ability to parent or show love and affection. New Mexico also recognizes recovery for the loss of consortium, which is the loss of a sexual relationship between spouses due to wrongful death.
Mental anguish is the mental and emotional pain and suffering that occurs because of the death of a loved one. Losing a loved one can often lead to depression, fear, panic, anger, frustration, fatigue, etc. These conditions can take a toll on your life, and you may be able to recover costs for this mental toll.
If the deceased individual contributed financially to your household, you may be able to recover their lost contribution. Similar to lost wages or earning capacity in a personal injury case, you may recover the lost wages they would have already contributed to your household between the time of death and the settlement. You may also be able to recover for the loss of future financial contributions the deceased individual would have contributed had they not suffered the injury or illness resulting in their death.
Loss of Inheritance
Loss of inheritance is the present value that the deceased individual would, in reasonable probability, have added to the estate and left at natural death to their surviving beneficiaries if they had not died prematurely due to the wrongful or negligent acts of another. You may be able to recover for this value, and a New Mexico injury lawyer will assist you in proving there is a loss of inheritance to be recovered.
Who Receives the Damages?
Although the personal representative is solely responsible for filing a wrongful death claim, any damages awarded because of a successful claim are held by the estate for the benefit of the surviving family members. Distribution of the damages are covered by the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act and are categorized as follows:
- If there is a surviving spouse but no children, all damages go to the spouse.
- If there is a surviving spouse and one or more children or grandchildren, damages are divided one-half to the spouse and one-half to the children or grandchildren.
- If there is no surviving spouse but there are surviving children or grandchildren, the damages are divided among the children or grandchildren according to New Mexico’s “right of representation” laws.
- If the deceased person has no spouse or children or is a child under age 18, the parents receive the damages awarded in a successful wrongful death suit; if there are no surviving parents, damages go to the deceased person’s siblings, whether the deceased is a child or adult.
How Zinda Can Help You
If you have lost a loved one after an accident, you may feel lost concerning what to do next. Our experienced New Mexico injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group can assist you with recovering the costs associated with the accident and death. Our attorneys will guide you through New Mexico’s complex legal system to help ensure you receive the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
We will take care of the legal work so you can focus on yourself and your family during this difficult time. If we do not win your case, you will not pay any fees. This is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you have lost a loved one after an accident and would like to pursue a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our New Mexico injury lawyers.