If your loved one is killed in an accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may have a claim for wrongful death. A wrongful death claim is a claim brought by the surviving heirs of a deceased person against the party who is responsible for their death. What should you do if you think you may have a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful Death Claims Are Like Other Personal Injury Claims, With Some Added Steps and Limitations
Wrongful death claims stem from the same sorts of events as other personal injury actions: car accidents, workplace injuries, medical or nursing home neglect, defective products, etc. Your process for approaching wrongful death claims is like any other personal injury claim, in terms of investigating the claim, retaining evidence, consulting an attorney, etc.
The difference is that wrongful death claims are brought according to very specific state laws governing who may bring such cases and what types of damages are available. Additionally, wrongful death claims will generally involve a probate action. Because the action is brought on behalf of the heirs of the deceased, statutory beneficiaries must be notified of the action. Your wrongful death attorney can help you determine both whether you have standing to bring a wrongful death claim after an accident and what damages may be available, as well as help you identify the relevant beneficiaries and file the related probate action.
Collect and Retain Evidence
Like with any other personal injury lawsuit, as soon as the death occurs, it is important to start compiling all available evidence to help support your claim. Keep copies of all medical records, accident reports, police reports, witness statements, and any other documentation generated as a result of the incident that led to the death. Additionally, compile evidence related to the costs that build up following the death of a loved one; for example: wages no longer earned, household chores and other tasks that the deceased used to handle, documentation relating to psychological care undertaken by family-members following the death, etc. These documents will help you and your wrongful death lawyer build your case, prove who is responsible for the death of your loved one, maximize your available damages and ensure that the party at fault pays you the damages you are owed.
Consult With an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
If you think you might have a case for wrongful death, it is vital to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you collect necessary evidence and investigate the matter in order to determine whether the death was in fact the result of some other party’s negligence and, if someone was at fault, will assist you in holding that party accountable. Evidence has a way of disappearing over time, and missing documents can reduce your available damages or even destroy your case entirely, leaving you and your family without any recompense.
If you and your attorney determine that you have a valid wrongful death case, and you have gathered your initial evidence, you can begin the lawsuit process. Your attorney will file a civil complaint against the parties at fault, notifying them of your claims and kicking off the lawsuit. Wrongful death claims also generally involve associated probate actions; your attorney will help you file the probate action, as well, and notify all appropriate beneficiaries.
Be Wary of the Statute of Limitations and Notice Requirements
Wrongful death claims carry a “statute of limitations,” meaning a time limit within which you must file your lawsuit. In New Mexico, you must bring your wrongful death lawsuit within three years of the date of death. There are circumstances under which the statute of limitations may be “tolled,” or delayed, allowing you to bring your suit more than three years after the death. These exceptions to the general three-year rule are extremely limited. A knowledgeable Las Cruces, New Mexico personal injury attorney can help you determine if your case satisfies any of the tolling provisions if you are coming up against the filing deadline, but your best bet is to file within the three-year deadline.
If your wrongful death claim is against a governmental entity or actor, the time limit is much shorter: You must notify the appropriate governmental entity within six months from the date of the occurrence that led to the wrongful death. Note that unlike the statute of limitations, the notice requirement here starts when the event causing the injury occurs. If a governmental actor, such as a city bus driver or police officer, is responsible for injuring your loved one, you should notify them as soon as possible. The notice will satisfy your requirements for a personal injury claim as well as any subsequent wrongful death claim.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers in Las Cruces, NM
A Las Cruces wrongful death attorney at the Law Office of Samuel I. Kane can help by sorting the legal aspects of your claim, identifying the primary beneficiary, filing the probate action and the related processes of providing notice and publication, and filing the personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties. Call our Las Cruces wrongful death lawyer today at 575-526-5263 for assistance and a no-obligation consultation.