Navigating New Mexico Motorcycle Wrongful Death Claims

motorcycle car accident emergency worker nearby

Our New Mexico Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help You Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim

Motorcycle accidents, a common occurrence, can tragically lead to severe outcomes, including fatalities. If you lost a loved one in a New Mexico motorcycle accident, your family could recover compensation by filing a wrongful death claim. Compensation may cover damages such as medical bills,  funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and punitive damages.

Navigating a motorcycle wrongful death claim in New Mexico requires a deep understanding of both the causes of motorcycle accidents and the unique legal challenges they present. For those seeking justice in such heartbreaking circumstances, being informed and seeking skilled legal representation from a New Mexico motorcycle accident lawyer at Keller & Keller is critical.

Common Causes of Fatal Motorcycle Accidents 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission (NHTSA), there are alarming numbers of motorcycle accidents yearly. In 2021, there were 5,932 rider fatalities. Fatal motorcycle accidents in New Mexico can occur due to a variety of reasons. These often include:

  • Driver negligence. This includes car or truck drivers failing to see motorcyclists, driving while distracted, misjudging their speed, or violating their right of way.
  • Road conditions. Poor road maintenance, such as potholes or unmarked hazards, can be particularly dangerous for motorcyclists.
  • Motorcycle defects. Mechanical issues or design flaws in motorcycles can lead to accidents.
  • Environmental factors. Weather conditions like rain, snow, or fog can increase the risk for motorcyclists.
  • Reckless driving. Speeding, lane splitting, or other forms of reckless driving by either the motorcyclist or other vehicle drivers.

Motorcycle Wrongful Death Claim Challenges

Motorcycle wrongful death claims in New Mexico face unique challenges:

  • Biker bias. There's a common misconception that motorcyclists are generally more reckless or prone to risky behavior. This bias can influence jury perceptions and the outcomes of wrongful death claims.
  • Choice to ride. The voluntary choice to ride a motorcycle is sometimes used to imply an assumption of risk, complicating the argument for negligence.
  • Helmet laws. New Mexico law requires all riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. For adult riders, the choice to wear a helmet or not can become a point of contention in wrongful death claims, especially in cases involving head injuries.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the wrongful death statute (NM Stat § 41-2-1 (2021)) specifies who can file a claim. 

  • Personal representative. The claim must be filed by the personal representative, also known as the executor, of the deceased's estate. This person is often named in a will or estate plan.
  • Court-appointed representative. If someone cannot serve as a personal representative or there is not a designated person, the court will appoint someone to serve.

While the personal representative files the wrongful death claim, the beneficiaries are typically the family members entitled to the compensation. This usually includes the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations in New Mexico

The statute of limitations is a legal timeframe within which a lawsuit or legal claim must be filed in the court system. The general rule in New Mexico is that a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years from the date of the deceased individual's death, not the date of the accident. This timeline is strict, and failing to file a claim within this period can result in losing the right to seek legal remedy.

While the three-year rule is generally applied, exceptions or special circumstances might affect this period. For example, if the cause of death was not immediately apparent and was discovered later, the statute may begin from the time of discovery. 

The personal representative of the deceased's estate must take timely action or risk having their case dismissed by the court. Given the complexity and the strict nature of these time limits, consulting with our skilled motorcycle accident lawyers experienced in wrongful death claims is advisable. An experienced New Mexico motorcycle accident lawyer can provide guidance on the specific deadlines applicable to your case and help ensure that all legal requirements are met within the appropriate timeframe.

James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller