New Mexico Wrongful Death Lawyers
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The unexpected death of a loved one can leave the surviving relatives in a state of grief and despair. In certain cases, a wrongful death cause of action may be available to help recover compensation on behalf of the deceased individual. This article will provide valuable information about wrongful death claims, including what a wrongful death claim consists of, how to file a wrongful death claim, and potential financial relief that may be available.
WHAT IS WRONGFUL DEATH?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim brought by a surviving member or surviving members of a deceased individual against another person or entity who can be held liable for the death. Grounds for a wrongful death claim exist when a person dies due to the legal fault of another. If successful, a wrongful death lawsuit may provide financial compensation in the form of money damages to the party who brought the lawsuit.
WRONGFUL DEATH EXAMPLES
Wrongful death cases arise from different types of events. For instance, a car crash may be the basis of a wrongful death case. A toddler choking on a small toy is another example. Listed below are several other examples of some of the most common causes of wrongful death.
Car accidents and truck accidents are among the most common causes of wrongful death claims. Grounds for wrongful death can occur in a collision between two or more vehicles, collisions with bicycles or pedestrians, or even in a single-vehicle car accident.
In a multi-car collision, the negligence of a distracted driver may be sufficient to establish fault in a wrongful death suit. For example, if a driver was texting and driving prior to the crash, the driver may be liable for the wrongful death of the victim. Similarly, drunk drivers or drivers going over the speed limit may also be held responsible for wrongful death.
Single-vehicle car accidents may also occur due to a faulty or defective car part. For example, if a vehicle’s brakes fail, a driver may end up crashing his or her car. In these cases, the manufacturer or seller of the defective car part may be held liable for wrongful death.
Grounds for a wrongful death claim may also arise after an aviation accident. These types of accidents typically involve airplane or helicopter crashes. Parties that are typically held liable for wrongful death following an aviation accident include the airline company, the manufacturer of the airplane or helicopter equipment, or the pilot.
Doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other hospital staffers have a duty to provide patients with safe and comprehensive care. Failure to adhere to this duty may be sufficient grounds for a wrongful death claim.
Examples of medical malpractice in the context of wrongful death include:
- Prescriptions errors
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Surgical error
- Medical equipment malfunction.
In these cases, potentially liable parties may include the medical professional, the hospital or clinic where the patient was treated, or the manufacturer of the defective medical equipment.
A death that occurs while at the workplace or on the job can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Common examples of workplace-related accidents leading to death include:
- Illness from a hazardous work environment
- Machine-related accidents
- Faulty equipment accidents
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, potentially liable parties may include the employer, the manager or supervisor on duty, or the manufacturer of defective equipment.
Read More: New Mexico Construction Accident Lawyers
Manufacturers, designers, sellers, and distributors of products put into the stream of commerce have a duty to provide customers with a safe product. Faulty design, defective manufacturing process, or failure to warn of possible injuries or death may subject these parties to liability for wrongful death.
Read More: New Mexico Product Liability Lawyers
Accidental gunshots are unfortunately a common cause of wrongful death claims. Sometimes they arise from hunting accidents, but often they are the result of an inexperienced user gaining access to an improperly stored firearm.
HOW TO FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM
Standing to File a Claim
To file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must first be authorized to do so by your state’s wrongful death statute. In some states, the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, siblings, parents, or other relatives are authorized to file a wrongful death claim. However, other states authorize only the personal representative or executor of the decedent’s estate to file a wrongful death claim.
New Mexico’s wrongful death statute authorizes the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to bring a wrongful death claim. If the deceased individual did not appoint a personal representative in his or her estate plan, a court will assign a representative. Common choices include surviving spouses and adult siblings.
Contact an Attorney
The personal representative wishing to bring a wrongful death claim should consult with a wrongful death attorney. A New Mexico wrongful death attorney may wish to speak with the personal representative in person or over the phone to discuss the facts of the case.
Learn More: Why Hiring a Lawyer Will Help Your Case
After an initial consultation, your attorney may conduct a thorough investigation into the case. For instance, the attorney may interview persons with knowledge of the matter, review medical records, and track down other important evidence.
Settlement and Lawsuit
After gathering as much information as possible, the wrongful death attorney may contact you to review your options moving forward. If the case is strong enough, you may file a lawsuit. If you receive a settlement offer from the at-fault party or the at-fault party’s insurance company, your attorney may act on your behalf by negotiating a settlement structured to protect your legal rights.
Damages may be awarded in a wrongful death claim if it can be established that another person or entity was at fault for the decedent’s death. In some cases, the types of damages that are available to certain individuals depends on their relationship to the deceased person. Damages that are typically available in a New Mexico wrongful death claim include:
Economic damages reflect the value of the financial contributions the decedent would have made to his or her surviving family members had it not been for his or her death. Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses related to the death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of expected earnings
- Loss of benefits (e.g., pension plans and/or medical coverage)
- Loss of inheritance
- The value of goods and services that the decedent would have provided
Non-economic damages are more subjective than economic damages. Non-economic damages are subjectively evaluated by the jury. Types of non-economic damages may include:
- Damage for the survivors’ mental anguish or pain and suffering
- Loss of care and protection from the deceased
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
Punitive damages are a type of damages awarded to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are fairly uncommon and are only awarded in cases where the actions of the defendant were particularly reckless or intentional.
Learn More: How to Calculate the Value of Case
LEGAL TIME LIMITS
States set a time limit, called a “statute of limitations,” with which a personal representative must file a wrongful death claim. In other words, a wrongful death claim must be filed within a certain time frame, or else the claim is effectively barred from being litigated in court.
New Mexico has a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. This means that the personal representative has three years from the date of the death to bring a wrongful death claim. Certain events may also pause, or “toll,” the statute of limitations.
Because the statute of limitations is a critical factor in wrongful death cases, you should seek the advice of an experienced wrongful death attorney, especially if you think the statute of limitations is nearing. An attorney may provide you with legal advice regarding the status and viability of your claim.
LET ZINDA LAW GROUP FIGHT FOR YOU
Navigating and handling a wrongful death claim by yourself can be a difficult and frustrating task. Having a Zinda Law Group attorney in your corner may provide several benefits. Below are just some of the reasons why hiring a wrongful death attorney may make a difference in your case.
Knowledge of the Law
At Zinda Law Group, our New Mexico attorneys have years of experience handling wrongful death claims. Our team understands the legal complexities involved and strives to help our clients understand their claims from start to finish.
Access to Resources
An attorney may strengthen your case by utilizing resources available to him or her. Our attorneys regularly use cutting-edge resources to help strengthen our clients’ claims.
Presenting a Lawsuit
If your case goes trial, you are going to want a person who knows how to present a lawsuit in your corner. Our wrongful death attorneys are litigation-focused and take pride in presenting cases before judges and juries.
No Win, No Fee Guarantee
Our firm also believes that a client should not have to worry about being able to afford high-quality legal representation. That is why we offer 100% free consultations, and why you pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are by appointment only.