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In Texas, when an individual’s injury or death was witnessed by a person close to them, that person may have a claim for the mental anguish they experienced as a result of witnessing the injury or death of their loved one.  For instance, if a child suffers injuries or death from being struck by a drunk driver while jogging, the father of that child - who witnesses his son’s injury or death - has a claim against the drunk driver for the mental anguish he suffered in witnessing his son’s injuries or death.  The father can recover damages for his mental anguish against the drunk driver even if the father was not physically injured.  This type of a claim is called a “bystander claim.”

The following are the required elements to recover in a bystander claim:

(1)  The plaintiff was located near the scene of the accident, as contrasted with one who was a distance away from it;
(2)  The plaintiff suffered shock as a result of a direct emotional impact upon the plaintiff from a sensory and contemporaneous observance of the accident, as contrasted with learning of the accident from others after its occurrence; and
(3)  The plaintiff and the victim were closely related, as contrasted with an absence of any relationship or the presence of only a distant relationship. Freeman v. City of Pasadena, 744 S.W.2d 923, 923-24 (Tex.1988)

Under Texas law, a bystander claim gives rise to a separate “per person” insurance limit. In the above example, let’s assume that the drunk driver had an insurance policy which provided $250,000 in liability coverage “per person” and $500,000 in total coverage “per accident.” The wrongful death claim for the death of the son would be limited to the per person policy limit of $250,000 (of insurance money) and the bystander claim would enable the father to recover up to an additional per person limit of $250,000 (of insurance money), for a total of $500,000.


If you witnessed the injury or death of a loved one, call the Law Offices of Alexander M. Gurevich at (713) 224-9600. Your initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we work on a contingent fee basis. This means you pay for our services only if you receive a monetary award or recovery of funds.

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