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How to Prove Fault for a Wrongful Death Claim

Posted in Wrongful Death

In New Mexico, state law defines wrongful death as a death that is caused by the neglect, default or wrongful act of another person, the nature of which would have given the victim the right to file a personal injury lawsuit had he or she lived. If you believe your family has grounds for a wrongful death claim, know that it is the responsibility of the filing party to prove the case. This means you or your Albuquerque wrongful death attorney must prove fault.

Proving Fault for a Wrongful Death Claim

What Is the Burden of Proof?

Every legal claim comes with a burden of proof. This is a required amount of proof or evidence to establish that what is being claimed is true or valid. The burden of proof changes according to the type of case. In criminal law, the burden of proof is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil law, it is a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence is clear and convincing proof that demonstrates that the defendant is more likely than not at fault for the accident or injury claimed. This is a lesser burden of proof than in the criminal justice system, but can still be difficult to meet depending on the case.

Elements of Negligence

Proving fault in a wrongful death claim generally means establishing negligence. Negligence is a common basis – although not the only basis – on which wrongful death lawsuits are based in New Mexico. Negligence in civil law means the failure to act with reasonable care, causing harm, injury or death to another person. For example, a motor vehicle driver is negligent if he or she fails to yield at a crosswalk and strikes a crossing pedestrian. If your attorney can prove the defendant’s negligence, the defendant will be liable (financially accountable) for the death.

Negligence consists of four elements:

  1. The defendant owed the deceased individual (decedent) a duty to exercise reasonable care.
  2. The defendant violated his or her duty of care to the decedent.
  3. The defendant’s violation of duty was the proximate or actual cause of the fatal injury.
  4. Compensable losses were suffered by the victim or his/her family.

Basing a wrongful death lawsuit on the legal theory of negligence requires evidence that these four elements are more likely to be true than untrue. It is also possible to base a wrongful death lawsuit on the grounds of default, fraud, a wrongful act, recklessness, a wanton disregard for the safety of others or the intent to harm. No matter what grounds your family uses to bring a wrongful death claim, the claim must be proven based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Evidence of Fault in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Evidence is a key part of any wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico. Evidence refers to data, documentation, records or information that prove a claim to be true. The success of your wrongful death claim will depend on the strength of your evidence. You or your wrongful death lawyer will need to gather and present evidence that proves that the defendant(s) is at fault for the injury that took your loved one’s life. This evidence may include:

  • A coroner’s report
  • Accident reports
  • Police reports
  • Expert testimony
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Medical records
  • Photographs and videos
  • Surveillance camera footage

An experienced wrongful death attorney in Albuquerque can conduct a comprehensive investigation of your loved one’s fatal incident. Then, your attorney can build a compelling claim to financial damages using all of the available evidence. A good attorney will be a powerful storyteller who can demonstrate to a judge or jury how the death took place, how the defendant could have prevented the death and why surviving family members deserve financial compensation. For more information about how to prove fault in a wrongful death claim, contact an attorney in Albuquerque today.