Despite increasingly stringent safety regulations for vehicle manufacturers, strict driving laws and aggressive driver awareness efforts, fatal car accidents can and do happen every day. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 90 people die in car crashes each day. In 2020 alone, there was a staggering 38,680 accident-related fatalities in the U.S., which breaks down to nearly 106 deaths per day. If your loved one is one of the 100 or so daily victims, you may feel the effects of these statistics more strongly than others. You may also wonder why some people die in car crashes and others do not and what, if anything, you can do to seek justice on behalf of your loved one.
At Hinkle Law Offices, LLC, our wrongful death attorneys have helped numerous families recover damages caused by the loss of a loved one. Though compensation cannot bring a loved one back, it can give you peace of mind that your family will have some sort of financial stability moving forward. Finally, by pursuing a legal claim, you can hold the at-fault party accountable and hopefully set a precedence that prevents him or her from engaging in similar reckless behavior in the future.
New Mexico Car Accident Fatality Statistics
New Mexico sees approximately 300 crash-related fatalities each year. By September of 2019, there was 319 fatalities; by the same month in 2020, there was 302; and by September of 2021, there was 352. Though the numbers fluctuate, the causes remain the same. Below are a few other statistics worth noting:
- Alcohol is involved in approximately one-fifth of fatal car crashes in New Mexico, with 71 of 2021’s 352 car crash fatalities involving alcohol.
- Approximately 40%, or 143, of 2021’s 352 crash fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.
- 46 of New Mexico’s fatalities were under the age of 21, while 41 were 65-years-old or older.
- 81 fatalities in 2021 were non-residents.
- For residents, urban areas are statistically more dangerous than rural areas, while the opposite appears true for non-residents.
Leading Causes of Fatal Car Crashes
A person’s lifetime risk of being involved in a fatal car crash is one in 107, making it the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Though you should not let fear prevent you from getting behind the wheel, you should use it to encourage you to drive safely and defensively, and to prevent you from engaging in activities that significantly increase your odds of getting in an accident. The activities that most commonly result in fatal car crashes are as follows:
- Distracted driving, which includes but is not limited to cell phone use, playing with the radio, eating, doing makeup, reaching for something on the floor and talking to passengers
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Failure to wear a safety restraint
- Driving while tired
- Driving while upset
- Driving at night or in adverse weather conditions
- Driving an unsafe vehicle
As you can see, most causes of fatal car crashes are avoidable. In fact, most car accidents are due to driver error and negligence and are also avoidable. You can help keep the roads safe by practicing safe driving and, just as importantly, practicing defensive driving.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in New Mexico
If you lost a loved one in a car crash, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim for damages. While only a personal representative of your loved one’s estate may file such an action, any damages that the courts award will go directly to his or her beneficiaries. If your loved one did not have a will, trust or estate planning documents in place, the courts will award any person or persons with a valid claim to your loved one’s estate.
As with most legal actions, a wrongful death claim is subject to statutes of limitations. In New Mexico, you have three years from the date of death to file a cause of action. If, however, the person responsible for your loved one’s death attempted to conceal his or her liability, you have three years from the date you discover his or her role or identity to file the claim.
The types of damages you may recover in a wrongful death claim differ slightly than those you would recover in a personal injury lawsuit. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to compensate the aggrieved family for any damages that arose as a result of the deceased’s absence. The most common types of damages awarded in New Mexico wrongful death suits include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional anguish
The courts may also award punitive damages. The point of punitive damages is not to compensate the victim’s family but rather, to punish the at-fault party and deter future similar behavior.
Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you recently lost a loved one in a car accident that another person caused, you may feel angry and helpless. While you have a right to feel angry, know that you are not alone. The wrongful death attorneys at Hinkle Law Offices, LLC, can provide the sensitive yet aggressive legal representation you need at this difficult time in your life. We will shoulder the burden that the legalities may create and help you navigate the often complex legal process. Ultimately, we will strive to help you recover the compensation you need to put the pieces of your life back together and to move forward with peace of mind.