Understanding wrongful death lawsuits in New Mexico

If someone dies because of someone else's negligence or misconduct, the victim's surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Here are some important things to know about wrongful death lawsuits in New Mexico.

Some wrongful death trials take place after criminal trials. However, the wrongdoer does not have to be convicted of a crime for the family to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

For example, if a drunk driver is charged with vehicular homicide but avoids conviction, the family of the victim may still bring a wrongful death claim against the accused. Why? Because wrongful death lawsuits are handled in civil court -- not criminal court. However, the evidence used in wrongful death trials is similar to the evidence used in criminal trials -- except there is a lower standard of proof in a wrongful death trial.

Wrongful death lawsuits can provide families with a variety of types of compensation.

Depending on the circumstances, compensation for any of the following may be available through a wrongful death claim:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Financial contributions the deceased person made to the household
  • Medical expenses related to the fatal injury or illness
  • Loss of the deceased person's companionship
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Mental anguish resulting from the death of a spouse, parent or child
  • Pain and suffering the deceased person experienced before death

In New Mexico, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the death unless it involves a governmental entity, in which case it must be filed within two years.

The law regarding the time limit for wrongful death claims is called the statute of limitations. Generally, a wrongful death claim may not be filed after the two- or three-year time limit, although there are rare circumstances that can result in that time period being extended.

Legal help is available.

If you have questions about any of these matters, speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. You do not have to go through the legal process alone, and a wrongful death attorney can explain your options and represent you and your family every step of the way. 

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