A vaccine injury claim is initiated by filing a petition with the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. Once the petition is filed, a Special Master is assigned to the case. A Special Master is a specialized judge that presides over vaccine injury claims only. The Special Master decides the outcome of the case instead of a jury.
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) oversees the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Therefore, HHS acts as the defendant in these cases. HHS reviews the petition and decides whether to dispute the claim. In many cases, HHS will concede that the vaccine caused the injury, illness, or reaction.
Parents or legal guardians of a child or disabled adult who received a vaccine covered by the VICP can also file a claim. Legal representatives of the estate of a deceased person who received a vaccine covered by the VICP can also file a claim, and may allege that the decedent’s death resulted from the vaccine injury.
There is no citizenship requirement. You may file a vaccine injury claim even if you are not a United States citizen. In addition, to be eligible to file a claim, the effects of the person’s injury must have:
1. Lasted for more than 6 months after the vaccine was given; or
2. Resulted in a hospital stay and surgery; or
3. Resulted in death.
The statute of limitations (“SOL”) requires that your claim be filed within three (3) years from the date of onset of symptoms. However, our firm recommends that you file no later than three (3) years from the date of your vaccination. In the event of a vaccine-related death, a claim must be filed no later than two (2) years from the date of death.
Our vaccine injury lawyers must prove that:
1. The injured person received a vaccine listed on the Vaccine Injury Table; and
2. That the vaccine caused the injury.
Medical records are the primary tool for proving a vaccine claim. All relevant medical records will be collected before we file a claim on your behalf. In some cases, it is necessary to retain a medical expert to write a report supporting the claim. We have relationships with several medical experts across the country who will work to strengthen your claim. If the claim goes to trial, these experts are well-versed in testifying before the Special Master.
If the injured party missed work due to the injury, or will miss work in the future, we will retain a vocational expert to testify regarding the lost wages. In cases where the injured party suffers from a condition which will require future treatment or care (such as a nurse aide) we will retain an expert called a “life care planner” who can project the estimated costs. These projected costs will then be included in the injured party’s settlement demand.
While the majority of our cases settle prior to trial, a trial is still a possibility if, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services does not concede to the causation and damages issues of the case. However, in the event a claim does go to trial, it will not resemble a traditional civil trial. Generally, the Court will try to accommodate the injured party by holding the hearing at a federal courthouse near his or her residence. Hearings may also be held via video-conference. Following the trial, the Special Master will decide your case. For a more detailed explanation of vaccine litigation procedure and trial procedure, call our office for a free consultation with one of our vaccine injury attorneys.
This process is designed to be quicker than civil litigation. With some exceptions, it usually is. A hearing on whether the vaccine caused the injury often occurs within a year. Cases that settle can conclude in as little as six months. Other components of the VICP are extremely cumbersome and may not be resolved as quickly. For example, once a case is settled, it usually takes six months or more to receive the settlement monies.
We highly recommend that injured parties hire a vaccine injury lawyer and not attempt to represent themselves in the National Vaccine Compensation Program. Hiring a vaccine attorney comes at no cost to the the injured party as the Court pays for all legal fees. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is often a very difficult, contentious, and complex process often involving complicated legal, medical, and factual issues. Our attorneys are experienced in litigating complicated claims and resolving disputes that may arise during the process.