What is the Vaccine Injury Court?
Vaccine Injury Court is the venue where all vaccine injury claims are filed and litigated. These claims are litigated via the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ("VICP"), a federally funded program that provides compensation to those injured by vaccines like the flu vaccine, tetanus vaccine, and MMR vaccine, among others. The program was created after the passing of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 which focused on the complicated issue of vaccine safety. Vaccine injury claims are not litigated in the same way as traditional civil lawsuits. Rather, they are processed in a special court known as the Vaccine Court with attorneys from the Department of Justice, not the pharmaceutical company.
Hear Cheryl's Vaccine Injury Story
Cheryl suffered SIRVA (shoulder injury related to vaccine administration) following a flu shot. Her vaccine injury claim was filed in the VICP by vaccine lawyer Max Muller where she obtained a large cash settlement for her pain and suffering, lost wages and out of pocket medical expenses.
How are Vaccine Injury Claims Handled?
A vaccine injury claim begins with a petition filed in 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 special judge under the federal government that presides over vaccine injury claims only. The Special Master decides the outcome of the case instead of a jury.
How are Lawyer Fees Paid in Vaccine Injury Cases?
Each year, My Vaccine Lawyer represents hundreds of clients injured by vaccines in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) oversees the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and acts as the defendant in each case of an adverse event. 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. Once a case is settled or a verdict is entered, we submit a separate application to the federal court for attorneys fees. Our fees are paid separately through the Vaccine Injury Trust Fund, not by our clients. Each vaccine dose, such as the HPV vaccine or pertussis vaccine, produced by vaccine manufacturers is subject to an excise tax which goes directly to the Vaccine Injury Trust Fund. Therefore, our clients keep their entire settlement or verdict.
Who Can File a Vaccine Injury Claim?
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-related injury. Also, 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:
- Lasted for more than 6 months after the vaccine was given; or
- Resulted in a hospital stay and surgery; or
- Resulted in death.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Vaccine Injury Claim?
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 of the injured person's death and within four (4) years of their first symptom or onset of injury.
Proving a Vaccine Injury Case
Our vaccine injury lawyers must prove that:
- The injured person received a vaccine listed on the Vaccine Injury Table; and
- That particular vaccine caused the injury, illness, disability, or in rare cases, death.
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 through in-depth scientific evidence. 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 may 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 may retain an expert called a “life care planner” who can project the future estimated medical expenses and provide plausible explanation. These projected expenses will then be included in the injured party’s settlement demand.
Trials in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
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.
How long does the vaccine injury claim process take?
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 two years. Cases that settle can conclude in as little as one year. Some more complex cases can take two years or more to reach a settlement agreement or get to a hearing. 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 (6) months or more to receive the settlement compensation.
The Role of a Vaccine Injury Lawyer
We highly recommend that injured parties hire a vaccine injury lawyer and do not attempt to represent themselves in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Hiring a vaccine attorney comes at no cost to the the injured party as the Vaccine Injury Trust Fund pays for all legal fees through an excise tax on the vaccine maker. 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.