The wrongful death of a loved one is almost unbearable. By definition, this means that the loved one died as a result of the negligence or other wrongful act of another. Although difficult, and likely the last thing that most people in this situation want to worry about, legal issues must be addressed without delay.
The Albuquerque Attorneys of Collins & Collins, P.C. understand that the surviving family of a wrongful death victim have too much on their plate to deal with the legal issues that must be addressed on these claims. We are here to help and to take care of all those necessary tasks to insure that justice is done for you and your deceased loved one.
Wrongful Death Deadlines Much the Same as Other Personal Injury Deadlines
Wrongful death is the ultimate and most tragic of all personal injury claims. However, these claims are treated much the same in terms of the deadlines that apply. As a result, it is important that surviving family or loved ones understand these deadlines and that despite the enormity of the loss, realize that there is no leniency with regards to missing a deadline.
Tort Claims Notice on Wrongful Death Claims
The New Mexico Tort Claims Act sets deadlines for personal injury claims against governmental entities or actors, including wrongful death actions. One very critical deadline under the Tort Claims Act is the Tort Claims Notice deadline.
The Tort Claims Notice provision under the Act requires that the proper governmental entity be given notice of possible personal injury claims within a certain period of time. There is a very short extension of this period of time for wrongful death cases.
The Tort Claims Notice for most personal injury claims is only 90 days from the date of the subject incident. In cases of wrongful death, the Tort Claims Notice deadline is extended to 6 months from the date of the occurrence of the event that caused the wrongful death.
Keep in mind that the notice does not run from the date of death. It runs from the date of the “occurrence of the injury which resulted in the death.”
This means if there is an injury caused by a governmental entity or actor, a Tort Claims Notice should be sent right away after the incident. This notice will suffice for both the personal injury claims and the wrongful death claims in the unfortunate event that the injuries ultimately lead to death.
Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims in New Mexico
The statute of limitations on personal injury claims apply to all personal injury claims, including wrongful death actions. Like other personal injury claims, the statute of limitations will vary depending on whether the defendant is a private or governmental party.
Like all personal injury claims, there is a three year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims against private parties such as individuals, businesses, corporations and the like. There are very few exceptions.
Again as with personal injury claims, the statute of limitations is shorter for wrongful death claims against governmental entities or actors. In cases against the government, the statute of limitations is only 2 years. Here too there are very few exceptions.
Start Date for Tort Claims Notice and Statute of Limitations Differ
There is one very important point to consider in cases against the government versus those against private parties. With the Tort Claims Notice requirement above, the deadline begins to run at the time of the injury or event that led to the wrongful death. With regards to the statute of limitation for filing an action, it runs from the date of death.
The failure to make the distinction can be disastrous. It may be that a lawsuit for wrongful death is filed within the 2 year period but be barred by failing to timely file the Tort Claims Notice. This might occur even though the Tort Claims Notice was sent within 6 months of death. No matter how unfair this may seem, the deadlines are very strict with extremely rare exceptions.
A Missed Deadline Will Bar Wrongful Death Claims! Do Not Delay!
Missing a deadline in a wrongful death case will bar the claim completely no matter how great the loss. So no matter how much a survivor may be suffering as a result of the horrible loss of a loved one, it is important not to delay in seeking the guidance of an attorney experienced with wrongful death claims.
Let the attorney deal with these issues while you and your family deal with more pressing matters.