City officials identified the city employee who died in a tragic accident at Brazos Park East on July 27, 2020. The employee was Robert Ochoa of Waco. Mr. Ochoa was 59 years old at the time of his death and had been employed with the city since January 2018.

According to Jonathan Cook, Director of Waco Parks and Recreation, city maintenance crews were working at Brazos Park East the morning of the accident. Specifically, a large tree trimming crew was at the park working on trees.

The accident occurred around 8:30 Monday morning while the tree trimming crew was cutting down a large tree near the river walk. Mr. Ochoa was not cutting down the tree, but a piece of the tree may have fallen on him. Fire, police, and American Medical Response crews responded to the call.

The accident is still under investigation, so no further information was provided.

The Death of a Worker Could Lead to Several Personal Injury Claims

When an employee dies, the family could have one or more claims against the employer and other parties.

According to the city’s website, Waco provides workers’ compensation insurance or equivalent benefits to workers that cover occupational illnesses and job-related injuries. In most cases, workers’ compensation pays families death benefits when a loved one is killed on the job.

However, the death benefits provided by workers’ compensation are limited. The benefits may not compensate the family for all damages and losses.

Therefore, the family may want to explore all their options for recovering compensation for a job-related death.

Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

When an employee dies in a work-related accident, the family members may receive certain death benefits under the workers’ compensation system. Eligible family members may include:

  • Spouses
  • Minor children
  • Children under 25 who attend an accredited college
  • Dependent grandchildren and other dependent family members
  • Non-dependent parents where there are no other eligible dependent family members

Death benefits under workers’ compensation usually include reimbursement for burial expenses, up to $10,000. The family may also receive 75 percent of the deceased workers’ average weekly wages. However, the state places maximum limits on the amount and duration of death benefits.

Filing a workers’ compensation death benefits claim can be complicated. The employer or the insurance provider may dispute the claim and deny coverage. Families can benefit from having experienced legal counsel when they file for death benefits under workers’ compensation.

Wrongful Death Claims for Work-Related Fatalities

In most cases, a family cannot sue an employer for a work-related death that is covered by workers’ compensation. However, there are exceptions.

If the employer was grossly negligent or committed an intentional act that resulted in the employee’s death, the family might have a wrongful death claim against the employer. Also, as stated above, if a third party was responsible for their loved one’s death, family members may have a third-party claim against the responsible party.

Third-party lawsuits and lawsuits against employers for wrongful death can provide additional compensation to family members. The compensation for wrongful death claims in Texas can include money for:

  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • The cost of medical care between the time of the accident and the person’s death
  • Loss of financial support that the family member would have provided had they lived
  • The emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the person’s death
  • Loss of inheritance, comfort, love, support, companionship, care, and guidance

The amount a family may receive for a wrongful death claim varies, depending on the facts of the case. Families must also work quickly to file a wrongful death claim.

Most wrongful death cases have a two-year Statute of Limitations. However, there are some exceptions. It is generally best to speak with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid losing your legal right to seek justice for your loved one.

Other Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death claim can arise from a variety of situations. Common situations that may result in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

No amount of money can ever replace a loved one. The pain and suffering experienced by the family do not have a price tag.

However, the judicial system cannot undo what has been done. It can only provide the legal remedies for the family to seek monetary compensation for the death of a family member. While a monetary award does not bring back a loved one, it can give some measure of justice and provide for the financial needs of the family.