Many victims consider filing a wrongful death claim after a loved one is killed in a car accident. However, what many do not realize is that you could also recover an additional amount for your own pain and suffering if you were in the car at the time of the crash.
The state of Texas allows people who have suffered severe mental anguish because of a death to get compensation under the bystander law. Any bystander who suffers prolonged grief or an altered mental state due to witnessing a serious injury or death of a family member can file a claim, as long as:
He or she was near the scene of the accident. To be considered a bystander, a claimant must have been at or near the scene at the time the fatal accident occurred. Generally, this means close enough to witness the accident or the events leading to the death. For example, someone who was talking to a relative on the phone will likely not meet the location requirements for these types of claims.
The emotional difficulty must have been caused by the accident. A bystander must be able to show that his or her suffering was directly caused by viewing the events of the accident as they happened. Bystanders who happen upon an accident scene and discover that a relative is one of the victims may count as bystanders, but those who learn of the accident after it happens and willingly travel to the scene afterward will not.
The bystander must be closely related to the victim. Although Texas wrongful death claims require a person bringing suit to be a parent, spouse, or child of the victim, a person bringing a bystander claim need only have had a close familial relationship with the deceased. Grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, step-siblings, and others who have long-standing relationships with the victim can all make bystander recovery claims.
There are a few exceptions to the bystander law. The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that medical malpractice is not a valid basis for bystander actions, such as if a son is in the hospital when a parent suffers a surgical injury. In addition, the mother of a stillborn child does not have a valid bystander claim, but can still sue for her own injuries.
How Does a Bystander Law Claim Affect My Wrongful Death Case?
A bystander recovery claim can have a dramatic impact on the amount you may recover in your case. Many Texans’ insurance policies have limits on the amount that each person can collect. For example, if a policy allows $100,000 per person for a wrongful death claim, adding a bystander to the case can add an additional $100,000, potentially doubling the amount of your recovery.
If you are not sure how to proceed with your wrongful death claim, our attorneys can investigate the circumstances of the accident and advise you on your options. Call Wayne Wright LLP at 800-237-3334 to tell us what happened in your free case evaluation. Your contact with us is free, and you will pay no attorney fees unless we win your case.