What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a person loses their life due to the negligent or intentional actions of another individual, business, or entity, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation on behalf of beneficiaries.

Here, we want to examine what a wrongful death lawsuit in New Mexico is, as well as the importance of reaching out to a skilled attorney for assistance if you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean Under New Mexico Law?

When we examine New Mexico law, we can see that wrongful death is classified as a death “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another,” with the added stipulation that the deceased individual would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the allegedly negligent party had they lived (N.M. Stat. § 41-2-1 (2021).

With how New Mexico words its wrongful death statute, it can be helpful to think of these claims as a personal injury lawsuit that the deceased is no longer able to file against the other party themselves. Instead, someone else has to file the wrongful death claim on their behalf.

Wrongful death claims can arise due to a wide variety of incidents, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Commercial truck accidents
  • Intentional acts of violence
  • Property owner negligence
  • Defective product incidents
  • Pedestrian, bicycle, and motorcycle accidents

Wrongful death claims are separate from any criminal charges a person could face for causing a death. Wrongful death claims take place in civil court, while criminal charges take place in the criminal court system. Prosecutors are responsible for bringing criminal charges against an individual, not family members of the deceased.

It is possible for a person to face criminal charges for causing death as well as a wrongful death lawsuit. However, a person does not have to face any type of criminal charges in order for them to also face a wrongful death lawsuit. These are two separate actions.

Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims in New Mexico?

In many states around the country, surviving family members of the deceased are responsible for filing wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. However, New Mexico requires the personal representative, often referred to as the executor, of the deceased’s estate to file the claim.

In most situations, the personal representative will be named in the deceased individual’s estate plan or will, but if there was no estate plan or if the personal representative is unable to serve, the court is responsible for appointing a separate personal representative.

How Long do Surviving Family Members Have to File a Lawsuit?

The personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate must file their claim within three years from the date of death, per New Mexico law. Failing to file a wrongful death lawsuit within this three-year time frame will mean that the family members and the estate become unable to recover any compensation for their losses.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

If you have lost somebody you love due to the negligent actions of another party, we encourage you to reach out to a skilled wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. These claims can be challenging, but an attorney will handle every aspect of the claim on your behalf. The goal is to help you and your loved ones gain some closure and recover the compensation necessary to help move forward.