Drunk drivers cause thousands of deaths every year, and some of those tragedies will occur right here in New Mexico. Usually, the police will arrest a driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the scene of a crash.
The state may then prosecute the driver for vehicular homicide. The penalties could be as much as 19 years in prison if the state secures a conviction. Unfortunately, sometimes mitigating factors might convince the courts to reduce the penalties they assign after a fatal drunk driving crash. Even worse, sometimes those who cause fatal crashes are able to avoid conviction or even prosecution on a technicality.
If your family feels like justice hasn’t been served after a fatal drunk driving crash, then you might be able to seek justice on your own behalf.
Drunk driving crashes can give rise to wrongful death claims
Under New Mexico law, the personal representative of someone’s estate can bring a civil suit against a person or a business responsible for their death if negligence or wrongful acts caused the tragedy. It would be easy to make an argument that drunk driving is neglectful, as everyone understands how alcohol impairs their driving ability.
However, driving after drinking too much or while being over the legal per se limit for alcohol is a wrongful act. Even if the state does not charge or convict the drunk driver with a criminal offense related to the collision, your family can still file a wrongful death claim against that driver.
Evidence from criminal proceedings could help your case, but neither a charge nor a conviction is necessary. In fact, the requirement for proof is lower in a civil case, which means that you might still be able to win a lawsuit even if there wasn’t enough evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
How a wrongful death claim could help
A successful wrongful death claim will give your family justice in two different ways. First, it will result in the courts declaring that your family’s loss is the direct responsibility of the other party. Additionally, you can potentially receive financial compensation for the losses your family has had to endure because of this crash.
Reviewing the circumstances of a recent drunk driving crash could help you decide if a wrongful death claim would be appropriate for your family.