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Albuquerque Wrongful Death Lawyer

Albuquerque Wrongful Death Lawyer

A loved one died in a preventable accident due to someone else engaging in negligent behaviors.

Now you find yourself left with bills for life-saving medical care your close family received, funeral and burial costs, and more. Plus, perhaps you and your loved ones counted the decedent for their financial support, and now that’s gone. And finally, what about the sound advice or comforting hug your spouse, parent, child, or other beloved relative used to provide that was taken away from you in an instant?

Should that loss of that counsel or companionship go unpunished? You shouldn’t have to assume any of the expenses associated with a relative’s untimely passing. An Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer can go over your right to recover compensation for your losses, beginning with a complimentary consultation.

How New Mexico Defines Wrongful Death

N.M. Stat. § 41-2-1 (2021) describes what a wrongful death is per New Mexico law. It is the death of an individual “caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.”

That same state statute describes how, had the decedent still been alive, the fatal acts that claimed their life would have entitled them to file a personal injury lawsuit. The right transfers to select surviving family members in the decedent’s absence.

To better understand this statute, it’s important that you understand the different components of it. Those include:

  • Wrongful act: This includes showing that the accused liable party, the defendant, engaged in negligence that resulted in your family member’s passing. This can involve being at fault for causing a truck crash or a criminal act like physically assaulting someone, which ultimately claimed a person’s life.
  • Neglect: This aspect of our state’s statute refers to a person or entity’s choice to turn a blind eye to others’ needs (being inattentive to them). An example of this is if a caregiver leaves a young child to rove around a swimming pool unattended, or if nursing home staff know that a resident is a fall risk but fail to check in on them to take them regularly.
  • Default of another: This commonly refers to someone not taking proactive measures to remedy a potentially dangerous situation. An example of this may include a property owner knowing that they’ve removed a staircase but failing to lock the doors leading to it and not posting warning signs to keep out, leaving individuals to perhaps unassumingly venture into the space and fall to their death.

Types of Fatal Incidents Leading to the Filing of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The following types of fatal injury accidents lead surviving family members to file lawsuits:

  • Motor vehicle crashes: This includes car wrecks, tractor-trailer collisions, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian-involved crashes, and similar events.
  • Premise liability events: Negligent security scenarios, slip and falls, dog bite situations, physical assaults, and swimming pool drownings are just some examples of injury events that can happen on others’ properties that can ultimately claim someone’s life.
  • Medical malpractice situations: This may include delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis scenarios, surgical errors, pharmaceutical errors, and other situations in which physicians or medical team members fail to uphold the standard of care required of them.
  • Nursing home abuse: Situations whereby patients suffer bedsores, are subjected to malnutrition and dehydration, and receive the wrong medications can all result in premature deaths.
  • Workplace injuries: Dangerous machinery, oil and gas industry explosions, toxic substance exposure, auto accidents, and workplace violence are all examples of acts that can deprive a person of their life.

The list above isn’t exhaustive. Losing a loved one in virtually any type of preventable accident may allow you to file a legal claim.

Eligibility To Recover Compensation for a Family Member’s Death

Our state’s laws limit who can take legal action to recover a financial award after a person’s wrongful death to the estate’s personal representative. In other words, the person appointed by the decedent pre-death in their will or appointed by a Bernalillo County Probate Court judge after death is the only person authorized to bring such legal action in our state.

N.M. Stat. Ann. § 28-6-1 specifies that personal representatives must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, and § 45-3-203 states that they cannot be one of the decedent’s creditors. A person’s state of residence doesn’t matter. If a decedent never appointed a personal representative, then a judge would generally hold a hearing in front of interested persons, including spouses, children, other heirs, creditors, and other prospective estate administrators, before determining who is best suited for the role.

Damages Recoverable for Lost Loved Ones in New Mexico

Compensation that is available in wrongful death cases can cover the decedent’s:

  • Medical bills they incurred during the latter part of life
  • Funeral or burial costs
  • Any pain and suffering they endured before their death
  • Lost wages they sustained prior to their death

Surviving family members may also be entitled to demand a financial settlement for:

  • Mental anguish they suffered in watching their loved one near death or after their passing
  • Noneconomic losses, such as losses of companionship, counsel, and consortium
  • The future earnings and employment-related benefits their loved one would have brought in had they not prematurely died

Punitive damages may also be available as compensation in cases that involved particularly negligent behaviors resulting in a person’s death, such as drunk driving.

Proving Negligence in an Albuquerque Wrongful Death Case

It’s your responsibility as a plaintiff to prove that negligence occurred to be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. There are four elements you must establish to prove negligence:

  • The person who fatally injured your relative owed them a legal duty: An example of this is how a property owner must ensure their property is reasonably safe for those they invite to it.
  • The perpetrator of the deadly breached their legal duty: An example of this is if a property owner failed to make necessary repairs to render their property safe, despite knowing about it and the dangers it posed.
  • Your loved one’s fatal injury was caused by that other person’s breach of duty: An example of this is if a property owner failed to repair damage to a safety barrier that they knew had become damaged and re-post a sign warning of impending danger led to the victim’s fatal injuries.
  • Your now-deceased family member and their heirs sustained monetary losses due to the harm they suffered: Life-flight bills to the hospital, surgical bills, and funeral costs are just some examples of expenses that fit the bill of this element.

Potential Liable Parties for Wrongful Deaths

You might assume that you can only take legal action against the actual person who harmed your loved one. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

You can hold a reckless or negligent person liable for their actions, say, for example, a person who caused a truck accident because they were speeding and couldn’t brake in time to avoid causing the collision.

It’s also possible for you to hold a third party who was negligently liable for damages, too. These third parties don’t have to be sole individuals; instead, they can be facilities, organizations, and companies.

In sticking with the example of the negligent truck driver above, it’s possible to also sue their employer for damages if there’s evidence that they removed a speed governor off the truck their operator was driving, or if there’s electronic communication showing that they put pressure on their driver to speed to make a timely delivery.

Situations like the ones above explain why it can be helpful to get an attorney involved to review your potential case. They may see additional liable parties beyond what meets the eye, which can potentially increase the amount of compensation available to recover in your case.

How Long Do You Have To File a Wrongful Death Action in NM?

The timeline for filing a wrongful death action in our state varies depending on the circumstances under which your loved one’s demise occurred. While that deadline is generally three years from the time of death, that filing window may not commence until later than the date of death in the following situations:

  • If the negligent cause of death was identified sometime after the decedent’s passing, the filing deadline would start from that date instead of on the one in which the victim died.
  • If the liable party is unable to be located, the filing time frame won’t commence until they’re found.
  • If there was some attempt to conceal one’s wrongful actions that resulted in the victim’s death, then the statute of limitations would only start tolling once the fraud was identified.

There are perhaps other circumstances under which a person’s death date is not when the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims would begin. Keep in mind that failing to file within the three-year statute of limitations may result in your losing your right to do so. This is why we always recommend that you discuss your unique case with an attorney to confirm the date that best applies to your case. Having such a meeting with our Barrera Law Group LLC is completely free, so schedule your no-obligation consultation with an attorney in our office today.

Why Our Law Firm’s Wrongful Death Attorneys Are Ideal for Handling Your Case

Having to come to terms with a loved one’s untimely passing is one of the most sensitive matters that you’ll likely have to deal with in your life. Each attorney on our team understands that and wants to be gentle with you to demonstrate how we’re empathetic to where you’re at in the grief process, while at the same time being firm and aggressive in dealing with insurers representing the perpetrator so that you get the justice you seek.

Our firm’s attorneys have decades of legal experience representing clients like yourself who lost a loved one much earlier than they should have, so you can expect us to thoroughly investigate your claim and compile the necessary information to build a strong case, including:

  • Taking time to learn more about your now-deceased loved one’s life, and how you anticipate their premature loss impacting you and your family in the future.
  • Requesting the police or incident report that captures what led to their fatal injury and to learn who was responsible for the acts that claimed their life.
  • Securing all end-of-life bills, including medical and funeral expenses, as well as pay stubs necessary to document monetary losses incurred.
  • Establishing the elements of negligence, including how the perpetrator had a duty of care, violated it, and caused monetary damages.
  • Working with actuaries to identify what your loved one’s life expectancy was, and the wealth they would have amassed had it not been for their premature passing.
  • Negotiating a maximum settlement offer with insurance adjusters.
  • Being willing to take the case to court if an insurance adjuster appears unwilling to amicably and justly settle the legal matter.

In short, when you work with Barrera Law Group LLC, you can count on us to treat you respectfully, keeping you apprised of what’s going on in your case along the way. Additionally, you can rest assured knowing we won’t leave any stone unturned in investigating your case and will pursue all possible avenues to ensure you receive compensation for your loss.

Contact our law firm if you’ve recently lost a loved one and you’re wondering what your next steps should be.

Your initial consultation with an attorney is completely free, and we don’t bill for our lawyers’ legal services unless we recover a settlement on your behalf. This should give you some peace of mind, especially at a stage in which you’ve already lost so much already. Call or email our law firm to speak with an Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer now.

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