Experiencing the death of a loved one can be a heart-rending experience. When the death was caused by negligence or intentional action, the situation can be even more distressing. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, it is important to promptly address the situation and seek the wrongful death compensation that you and your family deserve.
Wrongful death is a civil claim brought against a person who may be held liable for a death, whether accidental or intentional. Wrongful deaths are often caused by negligence, which means acting in a way that a reasonable person would not under similar circumstances, or failing to act in a certain way. When someone dies due to the fault of another person or entity, the deceased’s surviving family may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
At Parnall & Adams Law in Albuquerque, NM, we represent clients in many types of wrongful death cases.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death claim may arise following a situation in which a victim would otherwise have a valid personal injury claim if death did not occur. Wrongful deaths are typically associated with some type of negligent, reckless, or intentional act performed by a person, group of people, organization, or company. Wrongful death accidents can occur in a number of ways. Examples include:
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse or neglect
- Vehicle accidents (auto and pedestrian)
- Airplane or other commercial transportation accidents
- Deadly slip-and-fall accidents
- Negligent homeowner accidents (e.g. when a child drowns in a pool)
- Defective or dangerous drugs or products
- Workplace accidents or exposure to toxic substances
- Being the victim of a crime
Not all accidents that involve these types of situations constitute as wrongful death. The court will look at various aspects of a situation to determine if the defendant was indeed negligent.
Wrongful Death Claims in New Mexico
Under section 41-2-1 of the New Mexico Statutes, the term wrongful death is defined as being “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” This includes any wrongful acts that amount to a felony under state law. The representative of the deceased person’s estate must file a wrongful death claim. This person could be a surviving spouse, adult child, or adult sibling. If there is no estate plan or the person acting as the representative in the estate plan cannot serve, the court may appoint a representative.
Wrongful Death Damages
Once the wrongful death claim is filed, any damages awarded from the claim are thereafter held by the estate for a brief amount of time. If there is a surviving spouse and no children, the spouse may collect any damages. If there is a surviving spouse and children or grandchildren, any damages are divided. Half goes to the spouse and the other half to the children and/or grandchildren. If there is no spouse but surviving children or grandchildren exist, the damages are divided among these survivors.
Section 41-2-2 of the New Mexico Statutes states that a wrongful death claim must be filed within a three year period following the death. A statute of limitations goes into effect if a person attempts to claim a wrongful death after this three-year period. If the defendant is found responsible for the death in court, damages may be awarded. However, the type of damages that are awarded are based on the person’s unique relationship to the deceased person. In New Mexico, damages for wrongful deaths typically include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Compensation for loss of companionship
- Medical expenses from the deceased person’s last injury or illness
- Compensation for mental anguish
- Loss of inheritance
- Compensation for loss of financial contributions
- Pain and suffering that the deceased person endured before death
In New Mexico, some wrongful deaths may be eligible for punitive damages. Unlike the other types of damages mentioned, punitive damages are not intended to provide compensation for the family for their losses. Instead, it is awarded in certain cases where the deceased was the victim of an egregious action, such as gross negligence or intentional harm.
Contact the Attorneys at Parnall & Adams Today
At Parnall & Adams Law, we understand that losing a loved one can be a traumatic experience. We have dealt with many families who have experienced losses due to negligence of malicious intent. We also understand your desire for justice and the financial burden that the death of a family member can have on a family. That is why we fight for the rights and protection of victims of wrongful death cases. If you believe that your loved one has suffered a wrongful death, contact us today for a free consultation.