New Mexico recently added a new rule of civil procedure for wrongful death claims. Section 1-105 provides that certain notice provisions are to be provided statutory beneficiaries.
The rule states in part:
B. Required notice; timing. Upon entry of an order appointing a personal representative under the Wrongful Death Act, the personal representative shall provide notice under Rule 1-004 NMRA to all known or reasonably ascertainable statutory beneficiaries of the information set forth in Paragraph C of this rule.
C. Contents of notice. The notice required by this rule shall contain the following information:
(1) the name of the personal representative of the estate and the name, address, telephone number, and email address of the personal representative’s lawyer;
(2) a statement that the personal representative understands the legal requirement that the personal representative must act only in the best interests of all statutory beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate;
(3) instruction to the statutory beneficiaries that they shall provide the personal representative or the personal representative’s lawyer with current contact information so that they may be notified of matters in the pending action;
(4) a statement that all statutory beneficiaries will be timely notified of any and all trial settings, dismissals, settlements, and verdicts obtained on behalf of the decedent’s estate;
(5) a statement that all statutory beneficiaries will be specifically advised of any proposed distribution of proceeds under the Wrongful Death Act prior to any distribution of the proceeds; and
(6) a statement that, prior to the distribution of any proceeds of a wrongful death estate, if any controversy exists or arises concerning distribution that requires a court hearing, all statutory beneficiaries will be notified of the hearing and will be entitled to attend.
D. Subsequent notices. Notifications provided to statutory beneficiaries after the initial notice required by Paragraph B shall comply with Rule 1-005 NMRA.
[Adopted by Supreme Court Order No. 17-8300-027, effective December 31, 2017.]
This rule is an important clarification of the law in New Mexico wrongful death claims. In New Mexico all claims are brought in the name of the Personal Representative, not individually (although individuals may have their own claims for loss of consortium). The New Mexico Wrongful Death Act state that the beneficiaries allowed to collect are:
A. if there is a surviving spouse and no child, then to the spouse;
B. if there is a surviving spouse and a child or grandchild, then one-half to the surviving spouse and the remaining one-half to the children and grandchildren, the grandchildren taking by right of representation;
C. if there is no husband or wife, but a child or grandchild, then to such child and grandchild by right of representation;
D. if the deceased is a minor, childless and unmarried, then to the father and mother who shall have an equal interest in the judgment, or if either of them is dead, then to the survivor;
E. if there is no father, mother, husband, wife, child or grandchild, then to a surviving brother or sister if there are any; and
F. if there is no kindred as named in Subsections A through E of this section, then the proceeds of the judgment shall be disposed of in the manner authorized by law for the disposition of the personal property of deceased persons.
This rule is important to make sure that all legal beneficiaries interest are protected since they are probably prohibited from bringing their own lawsuits for wrongful death.
It is important if a loved one dies that a New Mexico attorney experience in wrongful death claims is contacted right away to protect the interest of the beneficiaries.