Wrongful Death Laws in New Mexico
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The unfortunate passing of a loved one often leaves the surviving family members in a state of grief and despair. Aside from the emotional impact due to the loss of a relative, the surviving family members must also deal with the economic aspect of the situation. For instance, the surviving family members may be left scrambling to figure out how future bills and expenses will be covered.
In these types of situations, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state are a type of civil action that are brought against a person or entity who can be held liable for the death of another individual. Because the details and nuances of wrongful death claims are established by state law, it is difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all description of a wrongful death claim.
If you have experienced the death of loved one, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our New Mexico wrongful death attorneys.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New Mexico?
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. A wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, can provide financial compensation in the form of damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
Broadly speaking, any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may result in a wrongful death claim. The State of New Mexico defines wrongful death as one that is “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another. The New Mexico statute also includes deaths caused by a wrongful act that would otherwise amount to a felony under state law.
The New Mexico wrongful death statute essentially treats a wrongful death claim as a personal injury claim that the deceased would have been able to bring if death had not occurred. This means that if the actions of the at-fault party would have entitled the deceased to pursue a personal injury claim, then the survivors of the deceased will be able to pursue a wrongful death claim in order to establish the defendant’s liability and seek damages.
It is important to note that although the circumstances of a case may prompt law enforcement and prosecutors to criminally charge a defendant, a civil wrongful death action may still be pursued in civil court. However, because the interaction of criminal and civil cases arising from the same occurrence may pose difficult legal questions, it is worth discussing your options with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
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 is often designated by name in the deceased’s estate plan. Common choices include surviving spouses or adult siblings of the deceased. If the designated individual cannot or will not serve as a personal representative of the deceased’s estate, or if no estate plan exists, the court will appoint a personal representative.
Although the personal representative is solely responsible for filing a wrongful death claim, any damages awarded as a result of a successful claim are held by the estate for the benefit of the surviving family members. Distribution of the damages 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
What Damages are Available in a New Mexico Wrongful Death Claim?
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
- Medical expenses pertaining to the deceased’s last illness or injury
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish caused by the death of a spouse, parent, or sibling
- Financial contributions made by the deceased to the household while living
- Loss of inheritance
Under certain circumstances, punitive damages may also be available. Unlike typical compensatory damages, which are intended to make a party whole, punitive damages are intended to punish acts which are particularly heinous or reckless.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
New Mexico law dictates that a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the date of the deceased’s death. This statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims filed more than three years after the date of the deceased’s death are effectively barred from being litigated in court. However, some circumstances may “toll” or pause this three-year time period. If you find yourself near the filing deadline, it is worth discussing your case with an experienced attorney who may be able to provide valuable information and guidance regarding New Mexico’s statute of limitations.
At Zinda Law Group, our attorneys have plenty of experience litigating and resolving wrongful death cases. Our team has the resources necessary to help build the strongest claim following the death of a loved one. Our dedicated attorneys are on stand-by, waiting to help grieving family members seek fair compensation for their losses.
If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced wrongful death lawyer, or if you would like to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free case evaluation.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.