Losing a loved one to an accident is a tragic, stressful experience. The last thing you want on top of your grief and loss is the burden of having to pay medical expenses, funeral expenses, and lost income as a result of your loved one’s death.
That’s where a wrongful death lawsuit comes in. If there was a person or entity whose negligent actions caused your loved one’s death, you can recover damages by holding them responsible for their actions in civil court.
Our experienced New Mexico wrongful death attorneys at Stewart + Harmonson have years of experience helping families recover after a tragic accident. In this blog post, we’ve laid out everything you need to know about the elements of a wrongful death claim, and how to successfully recover your damages.
What is a wrongful death claim in New Mexico?
New Mexico law defines wrongful death as a death that is “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.”
There are many injuries that could lead to a wrongful death lawsuit, including:
- Truck accidents and 18 wheeler crashes
- Car accidents including accidents involving company vehicles
- Oilfield accidents
- Workplace accidents
Some states allow the deceased person’s spouse or children to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In New Mexico, however, a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
If they did not have an estate plan — or if the person named cannot serve as the representative and file the wrongful death suit — the court will appoint someone in their place.
Evidence needed to prove wrongful death in New Mexico
To successfully prove that your loved one died from someone else’s negligence, you will need to prove three elements:
- Duty: The negligent party must have owed your loved one some “duty of care” at the time of the incident.
- Breach of duty: The negligent party must have failed to fulfill this duty.
- Causation: There is a direct link between the negligent party’s breach of duty and your loved one’s death.
Proving these three elements can be difficult without the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney.
But it’s also important to note that New Mexico limits the amount of time to file a wrongful death claim (the statute of limitations) to three years, so it’s important to get in touch with a New Mexico wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
What type of damages can you seek in a wrongful death case?
Once you’ve established liability in your wrongful death suit, you will need to establish the value of the damages you need to be compensated for.
These can include any of the following:
- Medical expenses for the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost financial support from the deceased
- Lost value of household services the deceased would have provided in the future
- Loss of companionship and love due to your loved one’s death
- Grief, pain, and suffering
The direct financial losses will be simpler to prove. You will need to collect medical records, invoices or receipts from the funeral home, pay stubs from the deceased’s employer, and other such financial documents to demonstrate the value of your financial losses.
Proving the unquantifiable damages like loss of companionship can be more complicated. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney is a good way to figure out how to demonstrate to the court how your loss will impact the surviving family.
Contact a New Mexico wrongful death attorney
At Stewart + Harmonson, we care about the clients we have and the cases we take. When our clients come into our fold, they become a part of the family.
We can help you prepare the evidence that you need for a successful wrongful death claim, and help your family down the road to recovery. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.