Albuquerque Wrongful Death Attorney
When someone else’s negligence causes the death of your loved one, you need legal help. A wrongful death claim could give your family the monetary compensation you need to cover funeral and burial costs, medical expenses, mental anguish, and other damages. Consult an experienced Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer after the unexpected, accident-related death of a family member for assistance with your claim.
The Albuquerque personal injury attorneys at The Fine Law Firm have over 40 years of experience handling wrongful death claims in New Mexico. We are here for local families in times of need. From in-depth incident investigations to timely claim filing, we can take care of all aspects of your case. Contact us for information, comfort, and advice. Call (505) 889-FINE now for a free consultation, or contact us online.
Why Choose Us?
Hire a law firm with a proven history of success, attorneys who care about their clients, and recognition from acclaimed legal organizations, such as Avvo and Martindale-Hubbell. The Fine Law Firm checks all these boxes and more. We are a premier personal injury and wrongful death firm in Albuquerque with the case results to show our commitment to the client. People trust us for wrongful death claim representation for the following reasons:
- We prioritize creating close relationships with clients.
- We pay strong attention to detail.
- We have a 99% success rate representing victims of personal injury.
- We have a reputation as leaders in law.
- We are trial lawyers with experience going against large corporations.
The attorneys at The Fine Law Firm want what’s best for your family after the tragic loss of a loved one. Although we know a win in the courtroom is small recompense for the death of a family member, we also know how important the results we achieve are for clients and their families. We want to help you hold the at-fault party accountable for his/her actions and obtain the money your family needs during this difficult time. Learn more about us.
Why Do You Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
New Mexico wrongful death claims involve many complex laws, including strict statutes of limitations and rules regarding who may file. A lawyer can help you navigate these laws and obtain a positive outcome for your case. Hiring an attorney takes the burden of proving your claim off your shoulders, so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones. While your lawyer takes care of the legalities of your case, you can continue going to work, focusing on family, on looking toward the future.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer is important for peace of mind, but also for obtaining better results for your claim than you likely could secure alone. Lawyers know how to negotiate higher settlements with insurance companies, especially after something as serious as a fatal accident. A wrongful death lawyer can also take your case to trial if necessary for fair compensation. Give your deceased loved one the best chances of justice, and your family the highest odds for fair compensation.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico?
Every state upholds strict laws pertaining to wrongful death claims, including who may file them and when. In New Mexico, the first party with the right to file a wrongful death claim is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. If an individual had an estate plan drawn up, he or she likely named an executor or personal representative. However, if the deceased did not name a personal representative, the court will appoint one.
While the personal representative will represent the deceased in court, any proceeds from the wrongful death claim will go to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate, or anyone with a valid claim on the contents of his or her estate. In many cases, the deceased’s surviving spouse acts as the personal representative for the wrongful death claim, but the personal representative may also be an adult sibling or child. If the named personal representative refuses to represent the estate or is somehow unable to do so, the court will choose another personal representative.
If a wrongful death claim is successful, the court will disburse damages based on the surviving family members’ relationships with the deceased. If there is a surviving spouse but the couple had no children, all proceeds from the lawsuit will go to the surviving spouse. If the couple had children and/or grandchildren, half of the proceeds go to the surviving spouse and the other half to the children and/or grandchildren, divided equally among them. If the case does not include a surviving spouse but the deceased had surviving children or grandchildren, the court will refer to New Mexico’s Right of Representation laws to disburse the proceeds appropriately.
New Mexico Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
The statute of limitations is the time limit for taking legal action for a specific incident. In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is three years beginning on the date of the death in question. Filing past this three-year window will likely lead to a judge dismissing the case, but several factors may “toll” or delay the start of the statute of limitations.
If the party responsible for the wrongful death committed any type of fraud or otherwise attempted to conceal his or her liability for the death in question, the statute of limitations would not begin until the date the surviving family discovered the deception. Similarly, if a liable party were to flee, the statute would not begin until the authorities locate the liable party.
Although rare, the discovery rule may also apply to New Mexico wrongful death claims. The discovery rule allows the statute of limitations to begin on the date of discovery of the cause of death, or the date the cause of death should have been discoverable through reasonable diligence. Anyone who suspects cause for filing a wrongful death claim in New Mexico should consult with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible for guidance. Depending on the at-fault party’s behavior, the statute of limitations may toll in the claimant’s favor, but it is vital to act quickly to ensure the lawsuit meets the applicable statute of limitations.
What Kind of Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims function similarly to personal injury claims, but the main difference is the plaintiff does not survive his or her injury or illness and someone else must file the claim on his or her behalf. The damages in a wrongful death claim ultimately compensate the family of the deceased for their loss, and the court will assign compensation to beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate based on each beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased.
- The personal representative bringing the wrongful death claim can claim compensation for reasonable funeral and burial costs. Typically, this means the defendant is liable for paying for these expenses in accordance with the deceased’s end-of-life wishes and preferences, within reason. A defendant would not be liable for a deceased individual’s plans for a lavish funeral or memorial service, and ultimately the court will decide what is reasonable when it comes to funeral and burial expenses.
- The wrongful death claim can also include damages for the deceased’s final medical expenses. If he or she sustained a fatal injury or illness and then passed away, the claim can include damages for his or her final medical expenses.
- A wrongful death claim usually includes noneconomic damages for the surviving family for their pain and suffering due to the untimely loss of their loved one. These damages generally include loss of consortium, affection, companionship, and guidance and the emotional anguish of losing a loved one.
- A wrongful death claim could also potentially include compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering if he or she did not immediately die from the final injury or illness. For example, if a drunk driver hit another driver and the victim languished in intensive care for several days before dying from his or her wounds, the personal representative bringing the wrongful death claim could cite this as justification for pain and suffering compensation on behalf of the deceased.
- The personal representative bringing the wrongful death claim can also cite lost inheritance as damages in the claim. For example, the deceased may have had investments or other assets intended for disbursement after his or her death, but the sudden and unexpected nature of the wrongful death means those assets did not reach full valuation.
- Lost income is also possible as the claimants in a wrongful death case have the right to seek compensation for lost financial support from the deceased. If the deceased individual was the breadwinner of a family, the wrongful death claim could include damages for the lost future income he or she would have reasonably expected to earn had he or she survived.
The claimants in the wrongful death suit will need to provide evidence of their financial losses resulting from the untimely death in question, and a New Mexico wrongful death attorney can help navigate these issues and find the necessary paperwork for proving damages. When it comes to intangible losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium, the claimants’ attorney will likely consult expert witnesses who can help the court understand the full impact of the wrongful death on the surviving family members.
In rare cases, a jury may award punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. As the name suggests, punitive damages intend to further punish the party responsible for a wrongful death if his or her behavior was grossly negligent or an intentional tort. For example, if a drunk driver causes a wrongful death and the driver already had a record of two previous DUI convictions, the driver will likely face criminal penalties in addition to civil penalties from the family of the victim’s wrongful death claim.
However, the judge may also award punitive damages to further punish the offender and discourage similar behavior in the future. The amount of punitive damages depends on the financial status of the defendant; wealthy defendants usually pay much more in punitive damages.
No hard and fast rule exists in New Mexico for determining how much a defendant may pay in punitive damages, but these damages generally only appear in cases involving egregious negligence, intentionally harmful conduct, or willful destructive behavior without regard for the safety and welfare of others.
Who Is Liable?
Determining liability for your loved one’s wrongful death is a key factor in securing compensation. The liable party will depend upon the circumstances of the fatal accident. If your loved one was at work, the liable party could be the employer. In a car accident, the other driver could be liable. You will need to show the following three elements to hold someone legally accountable for your loved one’s death in New Mexico:
- Duty. The defendant must have owed your deceased loved one some duty of care at the time of the fatal incident. For example, a physician owes his/her patients high standards of care according to the rules of the medical industry. Identify the defendant and his/her duties owed to your loved one.
- Breach of duty. The defendant must have breached, or failed to fulfill, his/her duties of care to your deceased loved one. You need proof of a breach of duty, such as testimony from eyewitnesses or subject-matter experts.
- Causation. You will need to show a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and your loved one’s death. If your loved one had terminal cancer and consumed a defective drug, but the cancer (not the drug) took his/her life, for instance, you would not have a case against the drug manufacturer.
Identifying the liable party and proving fault can be difficult without an attorney’s help. Many cases involve more than one liable party. You may assume, for example, that a drunk driver is the only defendant in your wrongful death case, but a product manufacturer could share fault if your loved one’s seatbelt had a dangerous defect. Hiring a wrongful death lawyer to investigate your case can help you determine liability.
Defining Wrongful Death
The New Mexico Statutes, Section 41-2-1, gives the state’s definition of wrongful death. According to the statute, any death of a person due to the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” is grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. The law states that if the victim had not perished from the act, neglect, or default and would have had the right to recover damages in a personal injury action, then the person who caused the death will be liable in a wrongful death claim.
You must have a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate bring your wrongful death claim in New Mexico. If your loved one didn’t appoint one in an estate plan, the courts will assign a representative for you. Surviving spouses and adult siblings are common choices. You have to file your claim within three years of the date of your loved one’s death for the courts to consider your case. If you’re not sure whether your situation calls for a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico, request a free case evaluation with The Fine Law Firm.
Examples of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death can arise out of many negligence-related situations in Albuquerque. Any time someone else negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causes or contributes to the death of another person, surviving family members may have grounds to file a wrongful death action in the state of New Mexico. While the list of wrongful death situations is long, a few of the most common examples are as follows:
- Car accident deaths
- Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
- Accidental fatal poisoning
- Unintentional drowning
- Crime-related deaths (shootings, stabbings, etc.)
- Police deadly use of force
- Medical malpractice patient deaths
- Fatal workplace accidents
- Fatal dog attacks
- Deadly fires or explosions
When an unintentional or crime-related injury is fatal, those the victim leaves behind may have the right to seek damages from the at-fault party or parties. If you’re unsure whether you have the elements necessary for a wrongful death claim in New Mexico, contact The Fine Law Firm to find out. We will listen to the details of your loved one’s fatal incident and give you an honest opinion on whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.
Causes of Wrongful Death
Negligence is the number one cause of wrongful death in the U.S. Negligence on behalf of drivers, property owners, product manufacturers, supervisors, doctors, the government, and others can cause fatal accidents. Human error may be fatal in situations with high risk to those involved, such as driving an automobile or working around heavy machinery at a construction site. It is the responsibility of those involved to ensure the safety of others. Failure to do so within reason, resulting in a fatal accident, is negligence.
If negligence didn’t cause your loved one’s recent death, perhaps the intent to harm did. Intentional acts such as homicide could give rise to wrongful death claims for surviving family members. You may have to wait until the conclusion of a criminal case against the defendant to pursue compensation through a civil case. The courts will toll your deadline to file until after a criminal case concludes. In a wrongful death claim involving intent to harm or kill, families are often eligible for punitive damages in addition to compensatory ones.
How Much Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Charge?
Don’t let the assumed costs of hiring a wrongful death lawyer stop you from giving your case its best chance of success. In reality, hiring a wrongful death attorney doesn’t have to cost you out of pocket. In fact, we only receive payment if you win or settle your case with compensation. The amount of compensation varies depending on the situation and circumstances of death. Damages may:
- Pay for medical bills up to the time of death.
- Reimburse families for funeral and burial expenses.
- Include the decedent’s pain and suffering.
- Include future lost wages and inheritance.
- Include the loss of decedent’s companionship, love, and support.
- Include the mental anguish of surviving loved ones.
The value of your case and the exact amount you’ll pay in attorney’s fees will both depend on the facts of your case. We always ensure our clients receive greater compensation than we do, even if that means reducing our fee. For more information about money matters relating to your lawsuit, contact our attorneys. We can evaluate your case and further explain our contingency-fee payment setup for free, during a phone interview or in person at our local Albuquerque office. We make outstanding legal representation affordable.
Contact Us Today
The Fine Law Firm extends its sincere condolences if you recently lost a loved one. Your next move should be to schedule a conversation with one of our Albuquerque accident attorneys. We can immediately remove the weight of a legal battle from your shoulders, taking over your case and obtaining top results for your family. We want to achieve justice for your deceased loved one and the recovery your family needs for future financial stability. In the aftermath of a serious and unexpected loss of life, contact us for counsel and support. Call (505) 889-FINE today.