Q: My child’s father died at sea, and we weren’t married. Can I recover damages?
When a parent dies at sea, their child may be entitled to receive compensation. Furthermore, if the deceased was in a relationship that's considered a common law marriage in Texas, their partner may have legal standing to pursue a claim.
Common Law Marriage
Any individual who lost a partner at sea may only pursue damages if their relationship was considered a common law marriage under Texas law. This means that a man and woman are considered husband and wife, even though they haven’t had a marriage ceremony.
To have a common law marriage, as defined by Section 2.401 of the Texas Family Code, a couple must:
- Agree to be married; and
- Live together as husband and wife; and
- Tell other people that they're married.
Legal Representation of a Child
Even when the deceased wasn't in a common law marriage, the surviving partner may still pursue a claim on their child’s behalf, under:
- The Death on the High Seas Act. Under this act, a claim may include compensation for funeral expenses, loss of financial support, loss of inheritance, and the value of lost services. The deceased’s child might also recover for the loss of guidance and care.
- The Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, a death claim may be brought against a deceased seaman’s employer on behalf of the child. Recovery can include damages for pain and suffering, medical costs, and loss of income.
- General maritime law. When a seaman’s death occurs within the territorial waters of a state, a general maritime law claim may be brought in conjunction with a Jones Act claim. The surviving child could be entitled to compensation for funeral expenses, loss of inheritance, medical costs, and loss of income.
If you’ve lost your partner in a maritime accident, you or your child may be entitled to recover damages. An experienced maritime injury attorney can help obtain the compensation you deserve. To learn more about what the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., can do for you, visit us on Facebook.