In New Mexico, a family can file a wrongful death lawsuit after the preventable loss of a loved one’s life. The state’s definition of wrongful death is a death that is caused by someone else’s neglect, default or wrongful act. If a victim passes away in an avoidable accident, surviving family members may be eligible for financial compensation in the form of a wrongful death settlement. Find out how the proceeds from a settlement are divided among surviving family members and beneficiaries under state law.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
In many states, the courts allow a deceased individual’s surviving loved ones and family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In New Mexico, however, this right is only given to the personal representative (also called the executor or administrator) of the deceased person’s estate. This party may be named in the decedent’s will or estate plan, or else the probate court will appoint someone to serve in this role. The personal representative must bring a legal cause of action within three years of the date of the deceased person’s death under New Mexico’s statute of limitations.
What Types of Compensation Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
If a wrongful death lawsuit succeeds in achieving an insurance settlement or judgment from a jury, the financial award could include amounts to cover specific losses suffered by both surviving family members and the decedent. These losses may include:
- The money spent on a funeral or burial service
- Medical expenses related to the decedent’s final illness or injury
- Financial contributions that the decedent would have made had he or she lived
- Lost contributions to the household
- The value of the decedent’s companionship, guidance and counsel
- The pain and suffering the decedent endured leading up to death
- Mental anguish related to the loss of a parent, child or spouse
The amount received by an estate or surviving family members in a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico will vary based on the specific case. The factors that could affect settlement value are the decedent’s age and income, the actions of the defendant, and the insurance coverage available, among others.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Distributed?
According to New Mexico law, although it is the personal representative of the estate that files a wrongful death lawsuit, any financial compensation gained in the lawsuit will be held by the estate on behalf of surviving family members. It will be distributed among beneficiaries as follows:
- If there is only a surviving spouse, he or she will keep the full financial recovery.
- If there is a surviving spouse as well as surviving children (or grandchildren), half will go to the spouse and half will be divided among the children.
- If there are only surviving children or grandchildren and no spouse, they will divide the compensation according to New Mexico’s right of representation law.
- Parents. If there is no spouse, children or grandchildren – or if the decedent was a child under the age of 18 – surviving parents will receive the damages.
- Siblings. If none of these parties exist, the damages will go to the deceased person’s siblings.
Whether the beneficiaries receive the wrongful death settlement as a lump-sum or structured settlement is up to the recipients. They can decide how they want to receive the payment before they sign the paperwork.
When to Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
A wrongful death lawsuit in Albuquerque is a confusing type of case that may require counsel from an attorney. A wrongful death attorney can carefully investigate your case, help you collect evidence, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf and take many other steps to advance your case during this difficult time. Your attorney can also help you understand how a settlement will be divided among surviving relatives. Speak to a lawyer today for more information.