Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult no matter the circumstance. But if someone you love has been killed through another’s negligence, the news is even harder to bear. These deaths are unexpected, making it that much harder to get closure, and often generate huge medical bills. Getting justice is important, and it’s possible under New Mexico law.
Understanding “Wrongful Death”
New Mexico law defines wrongful death as any death caused by neglect, default, or a “wrongful” act. This includes a death caused by someone else as they commit a felony. It’s a type of personal injury lawsuit, but one brought by the relatives of the victim rather than by the victim themselves.
Eligibility For Filing
New Mexico law limits wrongful death filings to a representative of the deceased person’s estate. In most cases, this will be a spouse or child, but in the case of younger people, it can be a parent or sibling. If the suit is successful, the damages awarded go to the whole family.
Criminal Cases And Wrongful Death
The authorities may bring a criminal case against the person who caused the death. This doesn’t interfere with your right to bring a wrongful death suit, but the criminal case can affect your wrongful death suit. If there is a chance that criminal charges will be brought forth, ask your attorney for advice about how the two might influence one another.
Statute Of Limitations
Wrongful death suits in New Mexico must be filed within three years of the death in question. There are a few factors that can extend this time, but it’s always a good idea to file as soon as possible. If you’re dealing with a medical malpractice suit, talk to Legacy Cremation Services about the best time to hold the cremation so you can honor your loved one while ensuring you have all the needed evidence in hand.
In New Mexico, you can claim damages for funeral and medical expenses, for loss of companionship and mental anguish, for the financial contributions the deceased was making to the household, for any pain and suffering the deceased went through before death, and for loss of inheritance. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded, though these do not go to the family.
The Filing Process
If you believe you have a case for wrongful death, the first step is always to talk to an experienced attorney. Medical malpractice attorneys with experience in wrongful death suits can advise you whether to file in the first place and help you understand what to expect.
The first official step will be to file a complaint about your allegations against the defendant. This complaint needs to allege all the facts, and these facts need to add up to wrongdoing (assuming they can all be proven in court).
Once you write your complaint, the next step is to serve it to the defendant, which simply means making sure they officially know they’re being sued and why so they have a fair chance to prepare a defense. In most cases, New Mexico laws prefer that you send someone personally to serve this complaint.
The defendant can respond in several ways. They might ask the court to dismiss the case, or they might send an answer that addresses each of your complaints, either admitting, denying, or claiming they don’t have enough information to admit or deny. If they don’t respond within a set time period, the court will automatically rule in your favor.
Reaching A Settlement
In some cases, the defendant will want to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, and your attorney will handle these negotiations for you. The goal is to avoid a long and costly lawsuit; but if you cannot get a satisfactory settlement, your attorney will likely recommend taking the suit to court.