Recently in Wrongful Death Category

May 6, 2015

State Supreme Court Dismisses Parents' Claim for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress After Son's Suicide

At the end of last month, the opinion and decision in a negligent infliction of emotional distress in relation to medical malpractice claim was released by the Supreme Court in Connecticut. Like New Mexico, Connecticut allows claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress to be brought in certain very limited circumstances.

hospital-1385736-m.jpgThis case revolves around a tragic incident when a family called the police department because their son was expressing suicidal ideations. Their son was detained by police and taken to the emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation. The medical staff at the hospital evaluated the son and left a message with his parents to notify them that the son would be released because he was not a danger to himself. The son left the hospital and proceeded to find an electrical cord and hang himself outside his parent's home. Unfortunately, the attempts to resuscitate him were futile, and he subsequently suffered a brain injury and was taken off life support.

The family brought a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress and a medical malpractice claim. The court held that in certain very limited situations a bystander claim may be brought in a medical malpractice action. However, they also held that the family did not suffer severe and debilitating emotional distress, which is the requirement in negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. The Supreme Court subsequently affirmed the lower court's finding.

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April 1, 2015

Family of Man Killed by New Mexico Police Office Files Suit

An Albuquerque man was shot and killed by police back in 2013, and his family is bringing a wrongful death suit against the city. According to a New Mexico news report, the suit is alleging that the officers violated the man's civil rights by using excessive force. Apparently, the incident stemmed from a police search of individuals who were involved in a theft at a music store. The police officers were searching for the alleged offender for many hours when they finally located him. The police officer named in the suit claims that he only shot at the man after he pointed a gun at the officer and the other officers who were there to arrest the man.

law-and-order-7-977051-m.jpgThe family of the man contends that the officer's account of the situation was not accurate, and they have camera footage to substantiate their claim. The family alleges that the man never pointed a gun, and he was actually running away from the officials.

No criminal charges have been brought by the County District Attorney's Office, but the family is still going forward with the civil suit. The amount of damages they are seeking has not been disclosed, but in the past few years the City has spent over $11 million in judgments, legal fees, and settlements because of these types of incidents.

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November 23, 2014

Wrongful Death Suit Against New Mexico School District

A 17-year-old Lovington student was killed after the student fell out of a moving vehicle on school grounds. A local news report explained that the lawyer for the family filed a suit in federal court. They are alleging that the Lovington School District was negligent because they did not supervise a parking lot that they knew was dangerous.

cn-tower-1008466-m.jpgThe family's attorney explained that the school knew that the parking lot was dangerous, and even after they were told about the problem they did not fix the condition. Furthermore, the complaint alleged that the school did not have any security officers in the parking lot. The principal of the school reportedly explained that staff attempted to direct traffic in the parking lot, but they were told that the district was immune from any liability if they hurt themselves while conducting the traffic. Apparently, the family is suing the district for more than $2.5 million in legal fees and damages.

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July 28, 2014

Medical Helicopter Crashes in New Mexico, Killing Three

A tragic helicopter crash occurred earlier this month in Guadalupe County, about three miles north of Interstate 40. The helicopter, a hospital aircraft out of Santa Fe, was traveling to Tucumcari to pick up a patient in the early morning on July 17 when it slammed into the geological formation known as Mesa Rica. All of the occupants were killed, including the pilot and two crew members. There was no patient in the chopper at the time of the crash. According to a report, the flight crew did not issue any distress calls or a mayday before the crash, and the crew on the ground had no indication that the aircraft was in trouble before the helicopter went down.

helicopter-1365864-m.jpgWhat Causes Aircraft to Go Down?

When a plane or helicopter is involved in a serious crash, the consequences can be tragic. The high speed and altitude that these vehicles travel at multiply the danger from a crash, and survival is unlikely. Without survivors or witnesses, it can be difficult to determine the cause of an aircraft accident. Some accidents are caused by pilot error, while others are the result of mechanical or equipment failure. A crash can be the result of a mistake by the ground crew, caused by a flock of birds, or even the result of something else. When an aircraft goes down, no cause should be ruled out too soon.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Crash?

With so many possible causes for plane and helicopter crashes, it is important that victims and their families have a complete and thorough investigation performed on the cause of the crash before accepting an offer of compensation from a potentially responsible party. Depending on the facts surrounding a crash, victims and their families could be entitled to a substantial award to help compensate them for the expenses related to the crash. If a crash victim is a customer or invitee of the pilot or party operating the flight, the passenger may be entitled to additional protections under the law, and someone may be financially responsible for the crash, even when it seems like a complete "accident." It is best for a victim or family member to contact a skilled attorney and start preparing to file a New Mexico wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident occurs.

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June 11, 2014

Three Teens and Pilot Killed in Unfortunate New Mexico Plane Crash

A plane crash in New Mexico killed three students from a charter school in Silver City, devastating the community and the students' families. The three students were eco-monitors for the school, and they were on a flight to witness the damage caused by a nearby wildfire. According to an article by the Silver City Sun-News, it was May 23, and the plane was flying near the Whiskey Creek Airport outside the city when a resident of a mobile home park witnessed the plane flying upside-down directly toward the trailer homes. The plane turned away from the mobile home park at the last minute and crashed into a field. All four occupants of the plane were killed in the tragic accident, the exact cause of which remains unknown.

landing-1443370-m.jpgIt is unclear whether the students were simply taking the flight together, or if they were on a school-sponsored trip, which would affect the legal implications of this accident. When a plane crashes, it is safe to say that something went wrong. It is not always easy to tell if the problem was caused by somebody's intentional or negligent behavior, or just the result of an accident. In this case, the mobile home park resident's statement that the plane was flying upside-down before the crash occurred raises the specter of negligence or human error, and it appears that someone may be legally responsible for the students' deaths.

A New Mexico wrongful death claim is a way for the families of those killed by the conduct of another person to seek compensation. It was not known at the time the article was published whether the pilot, who was killed, was the owner of the plane that crashed. If the pilot was at fault for the accident and was killed, there may still be parties that could be held responsible for the teenagers' deaths. The plane likely carried liability insurance, which could help to compensate the victims' families for their loss. The owner of the plane, if he was not the pilot, could also be legally responsible in some way. If the students were on a trip that was somehow sponsored or supported by their school, the school could be held responsible. Since the school that the students were attending was a charter school, a civil claim for damages may succeed more easily than if the claim was against a regular public school.

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March 8, 2014

New Mexico Driver Collides With Another Vehicle and Crashes into a Light Pole, Killing One and Injuring Three

In a tragic accident last month, one woman was killed and three others were injured when their car clipped another vehicle and smashed head-on into a light pole. According to a report by a Fox affiliate KFOX15, the driver was speeding and drove through a red light at an intersection in Anthony, New Mexico, when he struck a car that was stopped at the traffic light and veered into a light pole. None of the occupants had their seat belts on, and the front seat passenger was ejected from the car and died on the scene. The other occupants were severely injured and airlifted to a hospital in El Paso, Texas.

According to the report, the car was speeding by at least 15 miles an hour when it entered the intersection, and there was no evidence that the driver applied the brakes before crashing. Police believe that the driver was drunk at the time, and that his intoxication played a role in the accident.

old-power-1306782-m.jpgDrunk, Negligent, and Reckless Driving in New Mexico

In New Mexico, drivers face various penalties for driving recklessly and causing injury, death or property damage. The driver from last month's accident can face criminal penalties for drunk or reckless driving, battery, and manslaughter. Additionally, the driver may be financially liable to the injured passengers and the family of the deceased woman. If the driver of the car had auto insurance, his insurance company could also be liable for damages. Accidents caused by drunk or reckless driving result in significant costs, and unfortunately the victims of these accidents can rarely afford the expense.

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January 20, 2014

Rare Jury Verdict Reminds Drivers in New Mexico and Nationwide to Drive Sober

1381283586mxllq morguefile username DodgertonSkillhause.jpgA Bakersfield, California man was recently sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for second degree murder in connection with a fatal traffic collision in a construction zone. 32-year-old Jerad Cross was convicted of killing a 45-year-old Clovis man when he rear-ended his stopped vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication and other drugs. According to authorities, the force of the impact forced the deceased man's pick-up truck underneath the trailer of a semi-truck.

The local District Attorney's Office apparently chose to pursue a rare murder charge because Cross was driving on a suspended motor vehicle operator's license at the time of the collision. Previously, Cross was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding on at least five occasions, and he was allegedly involved in at least three other at-fault crashes. Immediately prior to the deadly accident, Cross purportedly crushed and snorted prescription medication in an effort to increase the effect of the drugs. He also apparently smoked methamphetamine the night before the accident.

At trial, Cross argued he was not guilty of second degree murder because he failed to understand he was endangering others when the wreck occurred. Prosecutors claimed Cross was well aware of the risks because the label on the drugs he took cautions against driving while taking the medication. Following two weeks of testimony, jurors convicted Cross on the murder charge as well as gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, possession of drug paraphernalia, and operating a vehicle with a suspended driver's license.

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December 19, 2013

Santa Fe County Jury Says Hospital Acted Negligently in Connection With 20-Year-Old's Death

file0001300605042 morguefile username click.jpgIn mid-December, a Santa Fe jury issued a $2.25 million wrongful death verdict against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in connection with the death of a young woman in 2008. In Christopherson v. Christus Health, et al., a 20-year-old woman sought emergency medical treatment for stomach pain that was purportedly related to pancreatitis at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe. The hospital apparently transferred Mercedes Christopherson to an Albuquerque hospital where she was treated for about one week. Four days after Chistopherson's release from the Albuquerque hospital, she again sought treatment for severe stomach pain at Christus St. Vincent.

After she returned to Christus St. Vincent, Christopherson was treated with a short course of antibiotics. Although the young woman suffered a fever during her hospital stay, she was reportedly discharged without any further antibiotics treatment after only one week. At the time of her discharge, Christopherson's oxygen-saturation levels were apparently dangerously low. In addition, the 20-year-old was released despite that she purportedly tested positive for an inter-abdominal infection.

According to the lawsuit, Christopherson was given a prescription for a pain relief patch when she was discharged from Christus St. Vincent. The drug provided through the patch is a narcotic that may depress a patient's respiratory system. About 18 hours after she was released, Christopherson reportedly became unresponsive. The young woman was taken by ambulance to Christus St. Vincent where she was unfortunately declared brain dead at despite efforts to resuscitate her. Less than two days after her discharge from the medical facility, Christopherson died as an apparent result of septicemia.

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September 18, 2013

Careless Driver Charged in Connection With Fatal Las Cruces Hit-And-Run Bicycle Accident

file000851924591 morguefile username dharder.jpgThe Las Cruces Police Department has arrested a 28-year-old man who stands accused of killing a 57-year-old man in an August hit-and-run bicycle accident. According to crash investigators, the bicycle rider was traveling south on Valley Drive around 9 pm when he was struck from behind by a red Chevrolet pick-up truck. Police stated the bicycle became lodged beneath the truck after the bicyclist was thrown several feet from the street. The driver of the pick-up truck purportedly continued heading south on the roadway. Police later found the bicycle on South Main Street under an interstate overpass.

Following the crash, emergency responders transported the bicyclist to University Medical Center of El Paso where he was reportedly placed on life support. Sadly, the 57-year-old man died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the hit-and-run accident three days later.

In early September, accident investigators received information that led them to question the 28-year-old man in connection with the fatal incident. He was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident that caused bodily harm or death, careless driving, and evidence tampering. According to police, the man struck the bicyclist while reaching for his mobile telephone. He is currently being held in the Dona Ana County Detention Center.

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August 26, 2013

Judge Orders Third Trial in Santa Fe Medical Negligence Case

file3291233869663 morguefile username Grafixar.jpgA New Mexico judge has issued an order for a third trial in connection with a medical negligence lawsuit that was filed in 2009 against a Santa Fe hospital. According to the wrongful death complaint, the father of a 20-year-old woman who died after she was released from the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center alleges the young woman received inadequate and negligent care from the hospital. The 20-year-old was purportedly diagnosed with pancreatitis and provided with a prescription for antibiotics at the hospital in late 2008. A physician employed by Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center allegedly ordered that the woman's medication be stopped and released her. The following day, the 20-year-old apparently died as a result of septicemia.

A jury trial in 2012 resulted in a finding of negligence on the part of the hospital, but jurors reportedly could not reach an agreement with regard to damages. A second jury trial was decided in favor of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. In August, State District Judge Raymond Ortiz, who presided over both jury trials, formally ordered a third trial due to alleged misconduct on the part of the hospital's defense attorney. According to his written order, the misconduct warranted extraordinary relief.

In the State of New Mexico, medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional such as a doctor or nurse fails to treat a patient using the prevailing standard of care and the patient sustains an injury as a direct result. Medical negligence can arise from a medical caregiver's failure to take appropriate action as well as by an intentional or unintentional act. For example, medical negligence may occur when a hospital or other medical provider does not offer appropriate treatment, improperly diagnoses a disease, or unreasonably delays medical treatment.

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July 24, 2013

61-Year-Old Killed in Doña Ana County Head-On Crash After Another Motorist Crosses Center Line

1408010_just_printed sxchu username MamPrint.jpgA 61-year-old Gadsden Independent School District Librarian was tragically killed in a recent head-on automobile collision in the Anthony Gap near Chaparral. According to New Mexico State Police, the woman was driving a four-door Toyota near mile marker six on New Mexico 404 around 11:30 am when a Chevrolet sedan driven by a 45-year-old Chaparral man allegedly crossed the center line and struck her vehicle. Following the accident, rescue crews transported the 45-year-old man and two children who were riding in his car, a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, to University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas for medical treatment. Sadly, the Chaparral High School Head Librarian was pronounced dead at the scene of the tragic collision.

The exact cause of the deadly traffic wreck is now under investigation by the Doña Ana County District Attorney's Office. According to State Police, the driver of the Chevrolet claims he blacked out immediately prior to the crash. Law enforcement officials apparently do not believe drugs or alcohol played a factor in the fatal accident. It is currently unclear whether the driver who allegedly caused the wreck will face charges.

Both drivers and passengers are catastrophically injured or killed in avoidable New Mexico traffic collisions each year. Car accidents may be caused by a wide array of factors including an intoxicated, impaired, inattentive, or reckless motorist. Crashes can also result from hazardous road conditions, medical emergencies, weather, and automobile defects. In New Mexico, the victim of a negligent motorist may be able to recover damages for their medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, and any disability that resulted from a traffic wreck. Additionally, the spouse, child, parent, or other close relative of someone who died in a New Mexico motor vehicle collision may be eligible to recover the costs associated with a loved one's funeral and wrongful death.

New Mexico is a comparative fault accident state. This means an individual who suffered harm in a traffic wreck may receive damages for his or her crash injuries even if he or she was partially responsible for the accident. If you were hurt or lost a loved one in an automobile accident in New Mexico, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options for recovery in more detail.

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February 21, 2013

New Mexico Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Wrongful Death Case

1158482_road_blur%20sxchu%20username%20arinas74.jpgThe Supreme Court of New Mexico has reversed a lower court’s holding that the New Mexico Department of Transportation (DOT) is immune as a matter of law from being sued for negligently failing to remedy a purportedly dangerous road condition. In Martinez v. N.M. Dep’t of Transp., the family of a couple who was killed in a 2004 head-on traffic accident on NM 502 near Los Alamos filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the DOT claiming the agency committed negligence when it failed to construct a barrier between oncoming traffic near mile marker 9. In the 1980s, a concrete barrier was reportedly installed on other stretches of the roadway in order to keep similar accidents from occurring but one was not installed where the fatal collision occurred.

Prior to trial, the DOT filed a motion for summary judgment claiming the agency was not responsible for the crash pursuant to the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. According to the DOT, the decision to install a two-way turn lane instead of a barrier despite that there were reportedly no intersecting roads onto which traffic could turn was a design decision that provided the agency with immunity under the Act. At trial, the victims’ family was not permitted to introduce evidence regarding a number of other accidents that occurred at the same location or the numerous citizen complaints that were filed with the DOT regarding the allegedly unsafe roadway. After a jury returned a verdict in favor of the DOT, a New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict. The victims’ family then appealed the case to the Supreme Court of New Mexico.

New Mexico’s high court stated that although the DOT was initially granted immunity related to barrier placement on NM 502, notice regarding a dangerous condition could trigger a maintenance issue that the agency may be held responsible for. The court continued by stating the safety of New Mexico motorists would be thwarted by providing the agency with perpetual design immunity. The court also said whether the DOT had sufficient notice of the allegedly dangerous road condition to trigger the maintenance exception to design immunity was a question for a jury. Finally, the Supreme Court of New Mexico reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.

Sadly, motorists and passengers are killed on highways and other roads located throughout New Mexico each day. Although traffic wrecks may be caused by impaired, careless, or simply distracted drivers, they may also result from hazardous or poorly maintained roadways. Car accident victims may be eligible to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and any disability that resulted from the wreck. Additionally, those who lost a close relative in a New Mexico traffic crash may be able to collect damages for loss of support and funeral expenses. If your beloved family member was killed in an automobile collision, you should contact a qualified wrongful death attorney.

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January 27, 2013

New Mexico State University Basketball Player Charged in Connection With Fatal Alamogordo Traffic Accident

1392148_basketball%20sxchu%20username%20ColinBroug.jpgNew Mexico State University basketball player Emery D. Coleman II was recently charged with third-degree felony homicide using a motor vehicle in connection with the January 2012 traffic death of 85-year-old Clarence G. Boulanger in Alamogordo. According to the Alamogordo Department of Public Safety (ADPS), Coleman was texting behind the wheel at the time of the fatal crash. The 19-year-old was released on an unsecured $5,000 bond until his preliminary hearing is held at the end of January.

According to ADPS Captain Israel Trujillo, Coleman was charged more than one year after the crash in large part due to the amount of time it took to get an accident reconstruction team from the New Mexico State Police in Santa Fe to investigate the collision. Additional time was also reportedly required for the reconstruction team to complete and file an accident report. A Spokesperson for the New Mexico State Police, Lieutenant Robert E. McDonald stated it is not uncommon for investigations to take several weeks. In the Coleman case, an accident reconstruction team was allegedly unavailable for more than six months.

ADPS Detective Dusty L. Collins said the reconstruction team determined that Coleman was headed south on White Sands Boulevard in a Dodge pick-up truck when he struck the driver’s side of Boulanger’s Chevrolet sedan as the elderly man crossed the roadway at a traffic light. Coleman allegedly told investigators that he was not speeding and his attempt to stop at the traffic light was unsuccessful.

Traffic wrecks are one of the leading causes of personal injury claims filed in the State of New Mexico every year. An accident can result whenever a distracted, impaired, inattentive, or reckless motorist travels on the roadways in our state. Automobile collisions may also result from hazardous road conditions, medical emergencies, motor vehicle defects, and a wide variety of other factors. The victim in a New Mexico car accident may be eligible to receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, disability, and more. In addition, the personal representative of someone who died in a traffic wreck may be entitled to recover damages pursuant to the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act. Contact a skilled attorney to discuss your rights in greater detail.

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December 28, 2012

Santa Fe Teacher Killed in Accident on I-25 Near La Cienega

1349622_frost%20sxchu%20username%20mmagallan.jpgA Santa Fe elementary school teacher was recently killed in what began as a one-car accident on Interstate 25 near La Cienega. 54-year-old Dorothy Mullins was reportedly returning home from transporting school supplies, toys, and other items to Juárez, Mexico as part of a holiday collection campaign when she lost control of her vehicle. According to New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Robert McDonald, Mullins was headed north on the freeway when she slid off of the roadway and hit a barrier wall. Following the initial impact, her automobile allegedly rolled back onto the interstate before coming to rest in the middle of the two northbound lanes. McDonald stated the driver of a Chevrolet pick-up truck was unable to stop and struck Mullins’ disabled vehicle. Sadly, Mullins was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Although the accident is currently under investigation by police, McDonald said alcohol was not a suspected factor in the fatal collision. The crash was reportedly one of many in the area that resulted from inclement weather.

Unfortunately, single-vehicle and other crashes occur regularly on the interstates and other roadways in our state. In 2011, 353 people died in traffic accidents throughout the State of New Mexico. Of those, 240 people were killed in a single-car crash. This means about two-thirds of drivers and passengers killed in New Mexico car accidents died as a result of a single-vehicle collision. Dangerous road conditions, vehicle defects, swerving to avoid a negligent driver, and weather frequently cause such accidents.

In certain cases, the family members of someone who was killed in a single-car or other crash may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a car manufacturer, a town or city, another driver, and others who may have caused the tragic loss. Although no amount of money can make up for the pain associated with losing your loved one, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your relative’s lost earning capacity, any pain and suffering that occurred prior to his or her death, medical bills, funeral expenses, and more. If you lost a close relative in a single-vehicle or other New Mexico car accident, you should contact a hardworking personal injury lawyer.

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December 27, 2012

Two Roadway Construction Workers Killed, One Hurt When Struck by RV Near Gallup

800px-Class-C%20Author%20Bill%20Wight%20wikimedia%20commons%20public%20domain.jpgIn September, a tragic accident on Interstate 40 near Gallup left two roadway construction workers dead and another injured. According to New Mexico State Police, five Valley Fence Company employees were installing a post and cable barrier in the median of the roadway when a westbound recreational vehicle (RV) driven by 67-year-old Lee McCray of Owensville, Indiana unexpectedly swerved into the median and struck three of the men. Sadly, 20-year-old Johan Marioni was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. 56-year-old Hermelindo Autunez was reportedly pinned between the RV and a work truck parked in the median. He died at a local area hospital about five hours later. A fence company foreman, 36-year-old Pedro Moreno, was treated for broken ribs after he was allegedly struck by a side mirror attached to the RV.

According to State Police, it does not appear that alcohol played a role in the crash. Although the exact cause of the fatal incident was not clear, police stated McCray appeared to have suffered a medical emergency immediately prior to striking the three men. Despite that McCray did not suffer any injuries as a result of the collision, he was purportedly transported to a Gallup hospital for a series of tests. The accident is currently under investigation by the nation’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Ironically, the fence that was being installed by the workers killed was part of a New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) safety project designed to prevent vehicles from entering the median of the freeway. A NMDOT spokesperson, Melissa Dosher, stated agency employees were in the process of placing warning signs along the roadway and closing the lane the RV was traveling in at the time of the wreck.

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury claims filed in New Mexico every year. A crash can easily result whenever a distracted, inattentive, impaired, or reckless motorist travels on the roadways throughout our state. In addition, automobile collisions may result from hazardous road conditions, motor vehicle defects, medical emergencies, and any number of other factors. The victim of an accident with a vehicle may be entitled to receive compensation for pain and suffering, medical costs, lost wages and benefits, and more. The personal representative of someone who was killed in such an accident may be entitled to recover additional compensation pursuant to the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act. A skilled wrongful death attorney can explain your rights in greater detail.

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