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Texas Maritime Lawyers Discuss the Public Vessels Act

The following is a guest blog post by the Texas Maritime Lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P.  This worldwide Jones Act law firm has handled personal injury cases for over 45 years.

Often times, our maritime law firm receives calls from offshore workers injured while working aboard a government-owned vessel.  Cases like these involve a specific area of maritime law called the Public Vessels Act.

A government owned vessel operated by a private contractor is a considered a “public vessel”.  The statute of limitations under the Public Vessels Act is 2 years from the date of accident.  In other words, you only have two years from the date of your accident to file the necessary legal proceedings in order to recover for your damages.

Where a vessel exists outside territorial waters and a plaintiff lacks a U.S. residence, the action may be brought in any United States District Court.  Even though the injured seaman would have been working for a third-party contractor, the cause of action would be brought against the United States of America as the named defendant.  Additionally, if the vessel involved is operated by the Military Sealift Command, there is no requirement that a written notice be sent to the government prior to the filing of a lawsuit.

Under the Jones Act and the Public Vessels Act, you can recover all of your lost wages from the time that you are injured until the time of trial or settlement, future lost wages, medical expenses to the extent they have not been paid for by your employer, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and mental anguish, and any damages available for refusal to pay maintenance and cure.

The Jones Act and Public Vessels Act are fault-based, meaning that you must establish that your employer was negligent or that the vessel was unseaworthy.  Unseaworthiness means a part of the ship was not in good working order and that defect caused you to get hurt.  Your conduct is evaluated as well and if the court finds that you were negligent and that negligence leads to your injury, your damages can be reduced.

The maritime attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. have represented injured maritime workers across the globe for over 45 years.  For answers to your Jones Act and Public Vessels Act questions, contact us today at or visit our firm on Facebook.

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