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How Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work in New Mexico?

An Albuquerque, NM wrongful death lawyer explains the legal process

The death of a loved one due to an accident can be overwhelming. Even knowing what to do next might not be clear. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone who can help you better understand your legal rights and options in such situations.

One of those options might include filing a wrongful death lawsuit. But you may have questions. How do wrongful death lawsuits work in New Mexico? Who can take such legal action? And is this approach the right legal option for you? New Mexico wrongful death attorney Andras Szantho of Albuquerque explains.

What is a wrongful death?

As the name suggests, a wrongful death is a fatal accident caused by someone else’s negligence. In most cases, this form of negligence involves someone’s actions – or failing to take certain actions – directly causing another person’s death.

What qualifies as a wrongful death in New Mexico?

New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 41, Article 2, Section 1 explains in detail what qualifies as a wrongful death in the state. The law states that a wrongful death has occurred if a person’s death was “caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.”

When such a death occurs in New Mexico, the at-fault party is considered liable, a legal term that means legally responsible. As a result, the at-fault is responsible for compensating certain individuals (continue reading to learn more) who experienced a financial loss as a result of the wrongful death.

This might sound straightforward. But in order to build a successful wrongful death case in New Mexico, there must be evidence that the at-fault party’s actions or inaction directly caused someone’s death and resulted in a financial loss.

What are common wrongful death cases?

Wrongful death cases can cover a wide range in New Mexico, including the following types of fatal accidents:

  • Car accidents caused by someone else.
  • Truck accidents.
  • Motorcycle accidents.
  • Workplace accidents.

Again, the key element in each one of these cases is there must be evidence that the at-fault party’s negligence resulted in someone’s death. Proving negligence in such cases can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to talk with an experienced New Mexico wrongful death attorney as soon as possible at our law firm.

How much is my wrongful death case worth?

There’s no set dollar amount when it comes to how much money you should receive for your wrongful death case. What matters is you should be financially compensated for all your financial losses if you qualify under New Mexico’s wrongful death regulations.

Financial losses sustained due to someone’s death can include a wide range of expenses and other items, including:

  • Funeral costs.
  • Medical expenses associated with any medical treatments your loved one received as a result of their fatal accident.
  • Money for any property damaged in the accident.
  • Lost future income your loved one would have earned.
  • Money for childcare if you need someone to care for your children while you work.
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.

Add all these expenses up and your wrongful death case could be worth thousands of dollars or significantly more money.

Should I accept a wrongful death settlement?

Sometimes after someone dies in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the at-fault party or their insurance company will make a settlement offer to surviving family members. This is a one-time payment designed to pay for all financial losses you sustained as a result of your loved one’s death.

You might be very tempted to take such an offer. However, it’s important to carefully consider such an offer before you agree to accept it. Because once you accept a wrongful death settlement offer, that’s it. Your case is settled and closed. So even if your future expenses and financial losses are more than you expected, you cannot ask for more money.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico?

If you are the spouse or parent of the person who died in an accident deemed a wrongful death, you cannot directly file a lawsuit against the at-fault party in New Mexico. Instead, state law requires the personal representative (also known as the “executor”) of the deceased person’s estate to file the wrongful death lawsuit.

When the personal representative files a wrongful death lawsuit, they are often doing so on behalf of family members who experienced a financial loss as a result of someone’s death. So if you are the spouse, child or surviving parent, you can in essence take legal action in New Mexico through the actions of the deceased person’s estate.

Which court handles wrongful death lawsuits in New Mexico?

First, it’s important to understand that a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case rather than a criminal case. In fact, even if there are criminal charges filed against the person who caused your loved one’s death, any wrongful death lawsuits filed in connection with someone’s death are completely separate legal matters.

As a result, in some cases, the at-fault party might be involved in two court cases in New Mexico – a wrongful death lawsuit in a civil court and a criminal case involving criminal charges in a criminal court.

Which civil court the deceased person’s estate decides to take legal action in New Mexico in a wrongful death case will often depend on several different factors, including:

  • How much money the personal estate is seeking in damages (financial compensation).
  • Where the death occurred in New Mexico.
  • Where the deceased person lived in New Mexico.

Is there a cap on damages for wrongful death lawsuits in New Mexico?

Some states place a limit on how much money surviving family members can receive as a result of the death of a loved one. This is known as a cap on damages since there’s a maximum amount of money that can be awarded to family members in such cases.

Depending on who the deceased person’s estate is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against, there might be a limit to how much money can be awarded if the lawsuit is successful. This is especially true if the lawsuit is being filed against a government agency.

However, in many cases, there is no cap or limit on the amount of money that can be awarded in most wrongful death cases in New Mexico. As a result, depending on the circumstances of your legal case, your family could receive thousands or perhaps even millions of dollars for your financial losses.

Should I file a wrongful death lawsuit?

There’s no easy answer to this question. Many times, family members of loved one fatally injured in an accident in New Mexico decide to take legal action and file a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of the reasons why you might decide to choose this approach could include:

  • You received a wrongful death settlement offer that does not cover all your financial losses.
  • The at-fault party or at-fault party’s insurance company that made the settlement offer refuses to negotiate and will not make a better settlement offer.
  • You do not receive any settlement offer of any kind for your loved one’s death.
  • You believe the best way to obtain the financial compensation your family deserves is by taking legal action and filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

So what’s the best way to decide what to do? Often, simply talking to an experienced lawyer who understands how the legal system works when it comes to wrongful death cases will give you a greater understanding of your legal options.

Why should I hire an Albuquerque wrongful death attorney?

If your husband, wife or child died in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you need to take action to learn more about your legal rights. Otherwise, your family could experience significant financial losses after losing your loved one.

New Mexico wrongful death lawyer Andras Szantho of the Szantho Law Firm, P.C. in Albuquerque knows what’s at stake. That’s why our law firm wants to help. We can answer your important legal questions, and explain the different legal options available to you. That way, you can make informed decisions about important legal and financial matters impacting your family after your loved one’s death.

Get a legal warrior who will fight for you. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with an Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer dedicated to helping you. Our Albuquerque office is conveniently located on Prospect Avenue. We also have an office located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We work on a contingency fee basis. That means you only pay us if we obtain a financial settlement or verdict for you.

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