We see the tragic stories on the news almost every night: a fatal car crash on Route 285, deadly pile-up on I-40, or lethal T-bone collision at Paseo del Norte & Coors Boulevard in Albuquerque. We might make a note to avoid the area, but we never think it could happen to us or to a loved one. When you do get that devastating phone call that a loved one has been killed in a vehicle crash, you are totally unprepared, and you are immediately swept up in dealing with the aftermath. If another driver’s carelessness or negligence caused the crash that killed your family member, however, you may be able to hold the driver responsible for compensating you for your losses. The Albuquerque car accident lawyers of Keller & Keller handle wrongful death lawsuits in New Mexico and would be happy to evaluate your situation.
What Is Wrongful Death in New Mexico?
The loss of a loved one always feels wrong, so what makes a death “wrongful” in the eyes of the law? New Mexico Statute 41-2-1 defines wrongful death as one that is "caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another." Just like in a personal injury claim, where the victim can file a claim against the person who caused his injury, a wrongful death claim holds the negligent party liable for the harm he or she has caused. In a wrongful death claim, the victim clearly cannot file, so New Mexico allows certain others to file on his behalf and collect the damages he would have been owed if he had survived, as well as additional damages for costs associated with the death.
If a driver’s carelessness, negligence, or intoxication caused the car, truck, or motorcycle crash that killed your loved one, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against him or her. If the victim’s own actions caused the fatal crash, a wrongful death claim would not be possible.
Who Is Awarded Damages in a New Mexico Wrongful Death Claim?
In New Mexico, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a personal representative of the estate. This may be a person—commonly a spouse—named in the deceased’s estate. If a personal representative is unable to fulfill his or her duties, or one has not been named, the court will appoint someone. Any damages awarded as a result of the suit will go to surviving family members in the following way:
- If there is a surviving spouse but no children, all damages go to the spouse.
- If there are a surviving spouse and children, damages are divided one-half to the spouse and one-half to the children.
- If there is no surviving spouse, but there are surviving children, the damages are divided among the children.
- If the deceased has no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, damages will go to the deceased’s parents. This is also true if the deceased is under the age of 18.
- If the deceased had no spouse, children, or surviving parents, damages would go to any surviving siblings.
This is an incredibly difficult time for family members, but a personal injury and wrongful death attorney can handle the legal aspects so that you can deal with your loss.
Damages That May Be Awarded in a NM Wrongful Death Claim
You will have three years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a wrongful death claim. A successful claim can result in the following damages:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred between the accident and the victim’s death
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish caused by the death of a parent, child, or spouse
- Financial contributions to the household by the deceased person
- Loss of inheritance
- Pain and suffering of the deceased before death
An experienced wrongful death attorney will argue on your behalf for all the damages to which you are entitled.
Call Keller & Keller in Albuquerque Following a Wrongful Death
You have enough on your plate following the tragic death of a loved one in a car accident. Trust our personal injury and wrongful death attorneys to handle the legal matters. Call to schedule a free consultation today.