When someone close to you is injured at the hands of a negligent party, your only hope is for their recovery. Unfortunately, some instances of negligence are so egregious that they result in death. Under these circumstances, the type of lawsuit you need to file will change from a general personal injury claim to a wrongful death claim, a unique kind of personal injury lawsuit that may be brought by surviving family members against a party whose negligence resulted in death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
In order to qualify as a wrongful death, it must be shown that the decedent lost their life as a result of a wrongful act or neglect. When a loved one dies because of the misconduct or negligence of another party, the surviving family members may be entitled to file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
Under New Mexico state law, the right to bring a lawsuit against a party that caused the decedent’s death through negligent or willful actions can be brought by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate on behalf of the family. It is possible that the decedent appointed an executor or representative of their estate prior to their death, but a court-appointed representative may be provided otherwise. A lawsuit can usually be brought on behalf of a spouse, child, father, mother, brother, or sister, depending on the circumstances.
Every state has its own system of specific legal methods for handing wrongful death claims, and when choosing a lawyer to represent you, it is best to ensure up front that your lawyer has a comprehensive understanding of all state legislation related to this area of law.
Differences Between Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Claims
All types of personal injury claims seek to help victims of another party’s wrongful actions recover damages, and a wrongful death claim is a specific instance of personal injury in which death is the result of those negligent actions causing harm. The specifics related to wrongful death claims are related to the fact that the victim of negligence is no longer living.
Beyond proving negligence, it must also be shown that the deceased’s death was a direct result of the negligence, and that they would have been eligible for to receive compensation in a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived.
Because the decedent has already passed, the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit are meant to cover the losses sustained by surviving loved ones, rather than the victim. When wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the survivors’ losses, this may include:
- Loss of consortium (loss of a close family relationship)
- Medical bills
- Lost wages, lost benefits, and loss of future earnings
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of protection and guidance
In addition to these compensatory damages (damages intended to help compensate for losses), there may also be cause for punitive damages. Punitive damages are those which intended to punish, and are only awarded in cases in which it can be shown that gross negligence occurred and the defendant was particularly reckless or malicious. This second type of damages, which may be applied in addition to compensatory damages, is awarded with the intention of preventing future instances of a similar case from occurring through the actions of the same or another party.
When to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Another reason your lawyer will need to be deeply familiar with New Mexico state laws is so that you can be sure you are adhering to all mandated guidelines. A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time you have to begin legal action following the date of death. Under New Mexico law, the statute of limitations is three year from the date of death.
There are exceptional cases, however, which may be subject to different time limits, one of which is when the injuries that caused death went undiscovered until after the death. It is important to make sure that your family is not denied the compensation you need to recover losses and mitigate your financial burden because of a missed deadline. By partnering with a mindful and conscientious lawyer, you can be confident that your rights will be protected and legal actions completed within the necessary timeframes.
At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we have stood by the sides of our clients through some of their most difficult moments. When someone comes to us for legal assistance, it is usually because they are facing a challenging or tragic matter.
Everyone on our team understands that losing a loved one may be one of the greatest hardships you ever encounter in life. It is our job as your legal advocate to devote ourselves completely to helping you achieve peace and justice after a tragedy. Call our office today to schedule a discussion of your case.