In New Mexico wrongful death cases, there are typically two focuses to any case. First, what can be recovered in a New Mexico wrongful death claim. And second, how is a New Mexico wrongful death lawyer required to distribute any proceeds that may be recovered.
The answer to both of these New Mexico wrongful death questions are complex, and I will reserve the first topic, of what damages are recoverable in a New Mexico wrongful death case for another post. Regarding the second topic, it is an unfortunate reality of wrongful death cases that sometimes family members emerge and come out of the wood work saying how close they were to the deceased and asking if they can recover anything. Fortunately, the New Mexico legislature has spoken on this issue and written into the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act the following language:
[New Mexico wrongful death proceeds shall be] distributed as follows:
A. if there is a surviving spouse and no child, then to the spouse;
B. if there is a surviving spouse and a child or grandchild, then one-half to the surviving spouse and the remaining one-half to the children and grandchildren, the grandchildren taking by right of representation;
C. if there is no husband or wife, but a child or grandchild, then to such child and grandchild by right of representation;
D. if the deceased is a minor, childless and unmarried, then to the father and mother who shall have an equal interest in the judgment, or if either of them is dead, then to the survivor;
E. if there is no father, mother, husband, wife, child or grandchild, then to a surviving brother or sister if there are any; and
F. if there is no kindred as named in Subsections A through E of this section, then the proceeds of the judgment shall be disposed of in the manner authorized by law for the disposition of the personal property of deceased persons.
This language generally resolves most any New Mexico wrongful death claim, but, not surprisingly, there are some exceptions. Given the relatively “complex” family histories that a common these days it is wise to consult with an experience New Mexico or Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer to explore the details of any possible claim.