Losing a loved one is incredibly challenging. This is particularly true if you lose a family member as a result of the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual or entity. It is important for family members who have lost a loved one to know the difference between wrongful death claims and homicide. These claims are handled in two different types of courts and are generally seen as separate matters. However, there can be some overlap between these two types of cases.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When we examine New Mexico law, we can see that wrongful death is any death “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another” where an individual would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party, had they survived (N.M. Stat. § 41-2-1 (2021).
Wrongful death claims arise in a variety of ways throughout the state of New Mexico. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Vehicle accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice incidents
- Defective product incidents
- Premises liability incidents
- Swimming pool and hot tub accidents
- Intentional acts of violence (assault, gunshot, stabbing, etc.)
In the state of New Mexico, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed in civil court by the personal representative or executor of the deceased individual’s estate. These claims can help the estate and surviving family members recover compensation for their loss.
How is a Homicide Different?
Homicide cases are different from wrongful deaths in that the person accused of homicide will face criminal charges brought by prosecutors for the state of New Mexico. These cases are brought in the criminal court system, not the civil court system. Criminal charges are meant to determine whether or not the individual accused of homicide actually committed the crime and to punish them appropriately if they are convicted.
Murder cases in criminal court are meant to bring a sense of justice for what happened, but they are not necessarily meant to compensate the victim’s estate or family members for their monetary losses.
Can Homicide Lead to a Wrongful Death Claim?
As we mentioned above, wrongful death claims arise in a variety of ways, including intentional acts of violence. It is possible for the estate of a deceased individual to file a lawsuit against the same individual facing charges for homicide. Even if an individual is found not guilty or if the charges are dropped, they can still face a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court. Sometimes, a wrongful death claim will not proceed forward until after the criminal case is resolved.
Work With an Attorney
If you have lost somebody that you love as a result of the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another individual, you need to reach out to an attorney immediately. An Albuquerque wrongful death lawyer will conduct a complete investigation into your case and help you determine the best steps moving forward for your situation. They will help you understand the timelines in place for filing these claims, as well as the process that will happen if you have to navigate a murder case associated with the death of your loved one.