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Making a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico

Making a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico

The death of a loved one is never easy. It takes time to grieve, regardless of the circumstances of the loved one’s death. That grief can become more complicated when it is known their death could have been prevented. When someone dies due to the negligence of another party, their family members may be able to make a claim on their behalf. These claims are reserved for certain family members and allow them to receive compensation for their loss.

Defining Wrongful Death

New Mexico statutes define wrongful death as a death caused by another person’s negligence or intentional behavior. It is likely someone’s death qualifies for a wrongful death suit if the person could have made a personal injury claim had they survived. Some examples of incidents that often lead to wrongful death claims include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Products that are defective
  • Deaths that occur due to unsafe conditions (premises liability cases)

Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim?

Some states allow anyone who was financially dependent on someone who died wrongfully to make a claim. However, New Mexico only allows the personal representative of the deceased party’s estate to make a wrongful death claim. Personal representatives are usually named in a person’s will. If someone who died wrongfully did not have a will in place, a judge can assign someone to act as their personal representative. This will likely be an immediate family member.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed on behalf of many people, even though it can only be initiated by a personal representative. For example, the deceased person’s spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings can be included.

Damages in Wrongful Death Suits

There are many types of damages that can be sought in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, all damages are separated into two types: punitive and compensatory. Punitive damages are designed to punish the person responsible for the wrongful death. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate the deceased person’s loved ones for losses associated with their death.

Compensatory damages can be for both non-economic and economic losses. Non-economic losses are not tangible, such as emotional anguish. Economic losses are tangible and include things such as medical bills.

End of Life Expenses

Expenses pertaining to the deceased party’s funeral and burial are one of the most commonly awarded damages in wrongful death lawsuits. These expenses can add up quickly, however, the person responsible for the wrongful death can be forced to reimburse the loved ones who paid initially.

Medical Bills

Wrongful death lawsuits often contain a lot of discourse about medical bills. A wrongful death might be preceded by weeks of treatment in a hospital setting for injuries or illness caused by the initial negligence. Costs associated with hospital stays, doctor’s appointments, rehabilitation, prescription medication, and more can be reimbursed through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Emotional Tolls

Surviving loved ones can sue for the mental anguish they experienced as a result of their family member’s wrongful death. Grief can cause depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and other emotions chat can be debilitating. Such an experience can take a toll on someone’s life, and wrongful death lawsuits give them the opportunity to be reimbursed for that toll.

Lost Income

Family members who were dependent on the deceased person’s income can sue for their lost income. The wages they would have contributed from the time of their death to the time a settlement is made can be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit. This reimbursement can include future wages the deceased party would have brought into the household as well.

Lost Inheritance

Someone who died a wrongful death would have likely added to the family’s estate and left their assets to their beneficiaries over the course of their life. Beneficiaries may be able to recover the estimated value the deceased party would have added to the estate over time.

Who Receives Wrongful Death Settlements?

In New Mexico, there is a pecking order for who receives payouts from a wrongful death lawsuit. If a claim of wrongful death is successful, the court will pay the money out as follows:

  • The deceased party’s spouse would receive the entire settlement if the deceased had no children.
  • If the deceased has children and grandchildren as well as a spouse, half of the award will be given to the spouse and half to the offspring.
  • If the deceased has children or grandchildren but no spouse, the offspring will receive the entire settlement.
  • If the deceased were under the age of 18 or had no children and no spouse, their parents will receive the entire settlement.
  • If the deceased has no living parents, no children, and no spouse, their siblings will receive the entire settlement.

When Does a Wrongful Death Claim Need to Be Made?

Unfortunately, there is a statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. A personal representative must file a wrongful death claim within 3 years of their loved one’s death. If a claim is filed later than this, it will be dismissed by the court. However, exceptions may be made if the wrongful death was only discovered after this time frame.

Get Help with Your Claim

Making a legal claim for the money associated with a loved one’s death can be complicated and emotionally taxing. Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law can provide you with one-on-one service to assist you with making a wrongful death claim. With over 20 years of experience, our attorneys will work tirelessly to pursue the maximum compensation available for your individual situation. Our team can analyze the scene of the accident, interview witnesses such as medical professionals, and give you the chance to focus on coming to terms with your loss. Reach out at (505) 219-2176 or online today.


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