As a general rule, the only ones eligible to file a wrongful death claim are the spouse, children and parents of the victim. But if another member of the victim’s immediate family witnesses the incident, and fulfils a few other requirements, they may also be able to obtain a damages settlement via a “bystander claim.”
Bystander recovery claims differ from wrongful death claims because the focus is not on the victim but the witness. Witnessing the injury or death of a loved one can have a profound impact and cause all kinds of trauma. Bystander claims are designed to help people in that awful situation on the road to recovery. As such, they are completely different from the wrongful death claim which may be filed in relation to the same incident.
Could I make a Texas Bystander Claim?
As the name implies, only those who witness the incident are eligible to pursue a bystander claim. However, the definition of a “bystander” is fairly malleable and differs considerably between states, so it’s a good idea to consult with a winning negligent death law firm in West Houston before going ahead with your claim.
Essentially, there are three key factors which you will need to prove in order to make a bystander claim successfully:
- Firstly, you must be a member of the victim’s close family. Unlike wrongful death claims, it is not necessary to be the spouse, parent or child of the victim. But you must be a close relation all the same, such as a grandparent or sibling, and have a strong relationship with the victim.
- Secondly, you must have been very close to the incident when it occurred. Typically, you will have actually witnessed the wrongful death.
- Finally, you must have experienced major mental anguish as a direct result of witnessing the incident. You will have to prove this by, for example, demonstrating the mental health issues which you have developed in response to the incident.
Individuals who meet the legal requirements to be classified as bystanders are often similar to those who are eligible to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the definition of a bystander is not so clearly delineated. Under Texas law, you must be “closely related” to the deceased. Though this covers some obvious familial relationships, it raises questions as to whether stepchildren or unmarried partners, for instance, are eligible to make a claim. As such, the requirements for a bystander claim are looser than those of a wrongful death claim.
Talk to an experienced Texas Wrongful Death Attorney for support with your Bystander Claim
Filing a bystander claim is a tricky business. That’s why it’s vital that you understand your rights, and make the correct decision as to what steps to take. For more information, get in touch with one of our highly experienced personal injury attorneys for a free initial consultation.