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Who Can File a Case for Wrongful Death? 

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Losing a loved one is painful and difficult, and when you’ve lost someone to an accident that could have been avoided, the loss is even more tragic. Car wrecks, medical treatment gone wrong, accidents at work, or injuries due to a malfunctioning consumer product can happen due to the negligence or carelessness of another party. 

No amount of money can heal the gap that your loved one’s passing has left in your family. But you do have the right to hold the party that caused their death accountable, and a settlement secured in a successful wrongful death suit can help alleviate the financial stressors you are facing. 

New Mexico law allows certain family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for a loved one’s death. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you learn about your legal options.

What is considered to be a wrongful death?

In some cases, an accident is just an accident and not legally considered to be a wrongful death. Wrongful death lawsuits can only be filed when a death occurs due to another party’s negligence or misconduct.

There is a useful rule of thumb regarding wrongful deaths: Would the deceased have had grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived the incident? If so, you might have the right to pursue legal action.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico?

According to New Mexico law, only the personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In many cases, this individual files the suit on behalf of eligible family members. 

If someone dies intestate (without a will and without naming an executor), the probate court will name a representative, and that party will file a suit for the family.

Plaintiffs, or the surviving family members, in a wrongful death claim are limited by relational proximity to the person who died. Unmarried partners, for example, cannot file wrongful death suits on behalf of their partners, nor can unrelated close friends file a wrongful death suit. 

The only people who can file a wrongful death suit through the estate’s representative are the following family members of the deceased:

  • Spouse or common-law spouse
  • Children, biological or adopted
  • Parents, biological or adoptive

Anyone else may be offered a portion of the settlement by the interested parties, but they cannot be an interested party in the suit themselves.

Quick Facts About New Mexico Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Persons interested in filing a wrongful death lawsuit need to act fast. When your grief for your loved one is fresh, you likely aren’t thinking, “I need a lawyer.” But unfortunately, there is a deadline for filing called the statute of limitations. 

In New Mexico, this deadline is three years from the date of your loved one’s death. If the estate’s representative files after that date, the case will probably be dismissed, no matter how strongly its facts are in your favor.

Compensation for wrongful death is similar to the compensation in a personal injury suit that the deceased would have been awarded had they lived to file one. 

Wrongful death settlements also include the costs of burial and a funeral, as well as compensation for the loss of the deceased person’s earning potential. In addition, they might include non-economic damages for the loss of companionship and consortium suffered by family members.

Do you need to file a wrongful death lawsuit?

If you’ve lost a loved one to an avoidable accident, we can help. Hunt Law of New Mexico is a personal injury and wrongful death firm focused on helping families after their loved one’s tragic accidents. Contact us today for a free consultation.