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What Rights Do Parents Have in the Workers’ Compensation System?

If your child was killed on the job, you have the right to Texas workers' comp Death Benefits.

If your child has died due to a work-related injury and their employer was a subscriber to a workers' compensation plan, Texas law allows you the to obtain workers' compensation Death Benefits. However, there is a catch.

In this article, our attorneys will explain the conditions that must exist for parents to receive workers' compensation benefits under Texas law.

Questions answered in this article:

  • How do parents qualify for Workers' Compensation Benefits?
  • Which laws outline the conditions for parents to receive benefits?
  • Are parents eligible if they are divorced?
  • Are step-parents eligible for compensation?

When parents can receive workers' compensation Death Benefits:

In a normal Texas wrongful death case, the parents of a deceased person have just as much right to file a lawsuit against the wrongdoer as the victim's spouse or children do. But when someone is killed on the job in Texas, normal wrongful death laws do not apply. The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is eliminated by the presence of workers' compensation coverage, and, eligible family members are only able to file for workers' compensation Death Benefits. They are not allowed to file a lawsuit (unless gross negligence has occurred).

Texas law says that the parents of a deceased worker can indeed file for workers' compensation Death Benefits but only if there is no spouse or child. The state essentially deems the rights of parents to be of lesser importance than the rights of the deceased workers' children or spouse.

The relevant written law can be found in the Texas Labor Code:

TEX LA. CODE ANN. § 408.182 : Texas Statutes - Section 408.182: DISTRIBUTION OF DEATH BENEFITS

  • (d) If there is no eligible spouse, no eligible child, and no eligible grandchild, the death benefits shall be paid in equal shares to surviving dependents of the deceased employee who are parents, stepparents, siblings, or grandparents of the deceased.
  • (d-1) If there is no eligible spouse, no eligible child, and no eligible grandchild, and there are no surviving dependents of the deceased employee who are parents, siblings, or grandparents of the deceased, the death benefits shall be paid in equal shares to surviving eligible parents of the deceased. A payment of death benefits made under this subsection may not exceed one payment per household and may not exceed 104 weeks.
  • (d-2) Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, to be eligible to receive death benefits under Subsection (d-1), an eligible parent must file with the division a claim for those benefits not later than the first anniversary of the date of the injured employee's death from the compensable injury. The claim must designate all eligible parents and necessary information for payment to the eligible parents. The insurance carrier is not liable for payment to any eligible parent not designated on the claim. The commissioner may extend the time for filing a claim under this subsection only if the eligible parent submits proof satisfactory to the commissioner of a compelling reason for the delay.

Now, that's what the letter of the law says. Let's go over what it means for you.

How do I qualify for Workers' Compensation Death Benefits if my child has died?

Essentially, to qualify as a parent for benefits under your child's workers' compensation death benefits, you must be the only remaining eligible survivor. Your deceased child must not have any surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren who could potentially receive your child's death benefits. An example of this would be if your child was previously married, but later divorced without any children. In this scenario, as the parents, you would be the only surviving eligible beneficiary since your child did not have any of their own children, and their former spouse is no longer eligible since there was a divorce before the death.

Furthermore, many clients have questions about whether they are recognized as an eligible parent. The law allows biological parents, adoptive parents, and even stepparents to receive death benefits of an employee who died without any other eligible surviving family members. However, if the parent's rights have been terminated, they are not allowed to receive these benefits. This includes biological parents who terminated their rights when they gave their child up for adoption. In this situation, the adoptive parents would receive the workers' compensation death benefits and the biological parents would be ineligible.

You have limited amount of time to file for Death Benefits for the death of your child.

One major challenge parents face when filing for workers' comp death benefits of their deceased child is the extremely limited amount of time they are allotted. First, the insurance carrier is not required to seek you out. You must be proactive in establishing your rights and seeking your deserved workers' compensation benefits. Second, there is a one-year "statute of limitations" restricting your time to file and receive benefits. If you allow this time to pass and fail to file a claim, your rights will be severed and you will receive nothing.

It is crucial that you speak with a knowledgeable employee injury attorney who can adequately advise you about these unusual restrictions. Most other death beneficiary claims are not similarly limited and, consequently, many people fail to recognize the urgency of their claim until it is too late. We urge you to schedule a meeting with us as soon as possible so that we may help preserve your rights and the interests of your loved one. Call us at (855) 326-0000.

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