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Wrongful Death vs Manslaughter

little girl riding bicycle in front of a moving vehicle

Wrongful death, outside of the professional healthcare realm, is still a form of negligence. An Albuquerque, NM driver who swerved and killed a 12-year-old girl is being charged with wrongful death due to reckless driving. While he was only going 2 miles per hour over the legal limit, it is assumed he was careless in his maneuver which lead to the young girl’s death. He switched out of one lane to avoid hitting a parked car, where he then hit and killed the girl crossing the street.

The driver’s actions were neither intentional nor over the top reckless, yet still, they resulted in the unwarranted death of an adolescent. In this case, the child’s parents believe that the driver should be charged with wrongful death. To understand their viewpoint, we are going to break down exactly what wrongful death is and what actions or inactions constitute a wrongful death case, and how they differ from manslaughter.

Wrongful death is defined as “denoting a civil action in which damages are sought against a party for causing a death, typically when criminal action has failed or is not attempted.” New Mexico in particular defines wrongful death as a death being “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” Under these definitions, a negligent driver may be charged with wrongful death. The biggest difference between manslaughter and wrongful death is that manslaughter is a criminal suit, whereas wrongful death is a civil suit. Another major differentiation is that manslaughter is a case brought about by the state, while wrongful death is brought about by a person’s family or loved ones.

Damages that may be awarded for wrongful death claims may include, but are not limited to:

  • Funeral and burial expenses, within reason
  • Any relevant medical expenses
  • Loss of companionship or mental anguish caused by the death of a family member such as a parent, child or spouse
  • Financial contributions to the household previously made by the deceased person
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Pain and suffering that the deceased person may have endured before death

When damages are awarded for a wrongful death suit, the damages are awarded to:

  • The surviving spouse, if there are no children.
  • If there are children with the surviving spouse, damages are to be divided one-half to the spouse and one-half to the children.
  • If there are children and no surviving spouse, damages are divided in accordance with New Mexico’s “Right of Representation” laws.

If you have specific questions about either a wrongful death or manslaughter case, do not hesitate to contact our offices for more information. Neither suits are minor ones and rarely are they straightforward. Our expert team of attorneys would be happy to assist you and your family on seeking justice for your case. We have made it our mission to uphold you and your family’s rights.

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