Your Rights Under the Public Vessels Act
If you have been injured while serving aboard a ship or vessel owned by the United States government you may be able to file a claim against the government under the Public Vessels Act (PVA), 46 USC 31101, et seq. Under the PVA, both U.S. and certain non-U.S. citizens who are working as civilians on United States-owned vessels are permitted to file a legal claim against the U.S. government to recover damages for their injuries. Prior to the enactment of the PVA, workers who were injured on a public vessel could not file a lawsuit for damages because the United States was immune from being sued.
With the passage of the PVA, individuals who are injured while working on a government- owned ship or vessel gained the legal right to sue the government to recover damages caused by a public vessel. Additionally, if you are injured on a government-owned vessel that is operated by a private contractor, you have the right to file suit under the PVA against the contractor and possibly against the U.S. Government.
Your Rights Under the Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA)
The Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA), 46 USC 30901, et seq., allows individuals to sue the government for maritime claims that do not directly involve a public vessel or ship. When an individual is injured due to the negligent actions of U.S. personnel in performing functions other than those “in the operation of” a public vessel, the claim will fall under the SIAA rather than the PVA. For instance, if your ship is struck by a U.S. owned vessel and you are hurt in a negligent rescue operation, you may have a cause of action against the U.S. government under the SIAA rather than the PVA.
Statutes of Limitation
Since it can be difficult to determine which laws apply to your case, it is important to consult with an experienced lawyer who can make sure that you are filing the right legal claims within the statutory time limits. If you fail to take legal action within the time period specified in the act or statute, you will be barred from filing your claim. For instance, if you have a cause of action for damages against the U.S. government under the Public Vessels Act (PVA) or the Suits in Admiralty Act (SIAA), a two year statute of limitations will apply to your case.
Should you mistakenly believe that your maritime injury claim falls under the Jones Act, rather than the PVA or SIAA, you might miss the deadline for filing your case since the statute of limitations in a Jones Act case is three years compared to the two year statute of limitations for PVA and SIAA cases.
It is also important to understand that even though the PVA and SIAA have a two year statute of limitations, you must actually file your suit against the government within 18 months of your accident. You must file within 18 months to allow for the six-month denial period (administrative claim requirement) to take place before the two year statute of limitations period expires. It is also important to recognize that the filing of an administrative claim will not toll the two-year statute of limitations period; if you wait to file your claim until after the 18 month period passes, it may be too late. Due to these confusing and restrictive filing deadlines, it is critical that you talk to a maritime injury lawyer immediately after your injury to help sort out the facts and laws that apply to your unique situation and advise you accordingly.
Do Not Delay – The Willis Law Firm Will Protect Your Rights
The Willis Law Firm is well aware of the various laws and legal time limits that apply to injured seamen and other maritime workers. Missing a statutory deadline can result in an individual losing the right to sue the government and other parties who are responsible for serious accidents and injuries. When you call and talk to an attorney at our firm, we will explain the laws that apply in your case and make sure that you understand the time limits for filing your lawsuit. You can schedule your free consultation today by completing our firm’s contact form or by calling 1-800-468-4878.