No matter the circumstances, the death of a loved one is tragic and life-changing. When a close relative is killed by someone’s negligence, the situation is downright horrific. The strain on your mental and emotional health can be crippling, even if you suffered no physical injuries.
The death of a loved one could be grounds for a lawsuit. You may be eligible to file either a wrongful death or bystander injury case. In this article, we will compare the two legal actions. By doing so, we will help clarify which option is best for you.
The Major Difference
The main difference between the two suits is the plaintiff.
In a wrongful death case, you are suing on behalf of the deceased. It’s best to see this lawsuit like any other personal injury case. Someone was harmed by another’s actions, and they file a suit for financial compensation. The difference here is that the injured party did not survive. They are not able to advocate for themselves, so you file the lawsuit in their stead.
In a bystander injury case, you are the plaintiff, seeking compensation for yourself. Your loved one’s death resulted in your mental injury. You are the victim. As the plaintiff, you claim that you were directly harmed by the defendant’s actions, and you, therefore, deserve compensation.
Remember, a wrongful death case operates like a standard personal injury suit. You must prove that the defendant is guilty of negligence. Doing so involves evidence. This includes medical records, property damage, witness testimony, and so forth. The plaintiff must show, through a preponderance of evidence, that the defendant is guilty of the act in question.
In a bystander injury claim, the plaintiff’s guilt is assumed. Police records, insurance claims, or prior lawsuits have already confirmed the defendant’s guilt. You must prove the effect their actions had on you. Although you were not physically harmed, you were still victimized by the defendant’s actions. Proving your claim involves evidence of your distress, including mental health records, a decline in job performance or loss of job, witness testimony, etc.
Proximity to the Event
In a wrongful death case, you may not be directly involved with the incident. Your loved one could have been killed miles away. You may have heard the news days later. Remember, you are suing on their behalf because they cannot file the lawsuit themselves. Your involvement is irrelevant, as the victim is the deceased.
In a bystander injury case, you must be present for the event. You are, quite simply, a bystander. The death happens directly before you, and witnessing the event causes you harm. There are rare instances where you could file suit even when you don’t see the moment of death. For instance, you may be unaware that an injury took place, and you suddenly discover the body of your loved one. Depending on the circumstances, this event could qualify for a bystander injury claim.
Compensation You Can Receive
When you file a civil lawsuit, your goal is to receive payback for your troubles. In a personal injury case, this includes expenses related to your injuries. You can be compensated for your medical bills, property damage, lost income, and so on.
Since a wrongful death suit is a personal injury claim on behalf of the deceased, you can sue for expenses related to their death. Any medical bills that accumulated before the victim died can be reimbursed. You can receive money for funeral expenses, and you could receive damages for the family’s lost income.
There are some personal damages you could receive in a wrongful death case. For instance, in the deceased’s absence, the family now experiences a loss of support. Perhaps the deceased managed the bills, provided childcare, or financially supported a close relative. These situations can call for damages, giving the unsupported financial breathing room to restructure their lives.
Since a bystander injury case is strictly about you, you can be reimbursed only for your direct injury. This means you cannot receive money for the deceased’s medical bills or funeral expenses. You can, however, receive money related to your emotional distress. This includes the cost of mental health treatment, including any necessary hospitalizations. If your emotional state affected your career, resulting in lost wages, you may be able to recover this money. You could also be compensated for your loss of “potential” earnings. This happens when your mental distress caused the loss of a promotion, business deal, etc.
In either lawsuit, you may be eligible for pain and suffering damages. Using complex formulas, your attorney will create and negotiate a reasonable dollar amount for these damages. Essentially, the length and severity of your suffering could yield a higher amount of financial compensation.
Who Can File?
In a Texas wrongful death lawsuit, only the closest family members have grounds to file a lawsuit. This courtesy extends to the deceased’s spouse, children, and/or parents.
Texas bystander injury lawsuits extend a little further, allowing siblings to sue. Remember that Texas also recognizes common-law marriage. If you witness the death or severe injury of your long-time, live-in partner, you may be able to file a bystander suit as a common-law husband or wife.
If you need help with either a wrongful death or a bystander injury lawsuit, contact our firm today. We can offer you a free, no-risk consultation. You can reach us at (956) 627-0908 or connect with us online.