When loved ones die unexpectedly, the grieving process overwhelms most surviving family members. If that death was the result of someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, the trauma is even worse. Avoidable accidents frequently have tragic consequences, but those left behind can consult an injury attorney to help them potentially recover compensation for the loss.
Several types of damages may be available in wrongful death cases; these include lost income of the deceased, funeral expenses and any health-care bills related to the incident. An Albuquerque injury attorney can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit. Call the Law Office of Brian K. Branch at 505-764-9710 to schedule a consultation.
In the meantime, read on for answers to four FAQs about wrongful death cases in New Mexico:
- What makes a wrongful death claim legitimate?
New Mexico law defines a case of wrongful death as one that another person causes because of wrongful or neglectful actions. If one person causes an accident that kills another person, then the deceased’s family may file a lawsuit against the liable party. This definition includes criminal actions such as murder. Even if there is a criminal case, you may still file a civil lawsuit against that person.
- Who can file a lawsuit for wrongful death in New Mexico?
According to the New Mexico Compilation Commission, the deceased person’s personal estate representative must file the lawsuit. In most cases, the deceased will name this person in his or her estate plan.
The representative is usually a surviving spouse, adult sibling, parent or other next-of-kin. The court may appoint an estate representative if the chosen person is not willing to take on the role, or if the deceased does not have an estate plan.
While the estate’s representative must file the wrongful death claim, any awarded damages must go into the estate to benefit surviving family members. Damages typically go to the following people:
- If the spouse survives and there are no children, then he or she will receive all damages.
- If the surviving spouse has children with the deceased, then he or she will get half the damages and the children or grandchildren will receive the other half.
- The court will divide all damages among the children or grandchildren if the spouse is also deceased.
If the deceased is below the age of 18 or is unmarried without children, then his or her parents will receive the awarded damages. If the deceased has no surviving parents, then the damages will go to his or her siblings, regardless of the deceased’s age.
- What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in New Mexico?
You have three years to file a lawsuit from the date of your loved one’s death. You cannot claim damages later than this. Some factors can extend the deadline, but you should consult a personal-injury lawyer to get the process started as soon as possible.
- What damages can you claim in wrongful death cases?
If you can establish the defendant’s liability in court, then you will likely receive damages. The types of damages available will depend on your relationship with the deceased. In New Mexico, damages for wrongful death cases typically include the following:
- Burial and funeral expenses;
- the deceased’s medical bills for his or her final injury or illness;
- loss of companionship;
- mental anguish from losing a child, parent or spouse;
- loss of income;
- loss of future income;
- loss of inheritance;
- and pain and suffering.
In some wrongful death cases, the plaintiff can claim punitive damages. These damages aim to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior, such as gross negligence, recklessness or intentional harm.
If your loved one died due to another person’s negligence in New Mexico, then contact the Law Office of Brian K. Branch. Call us today at 505-764-9710 to schedule a consultation.