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4 min read

What is a Vaccine Injury Lawsuit? Understanding the VICP Process

Vaccinations are essential in protection against preventable diseases, but similar to any other medical procedure, there are risks associated with vaccine administration.


What is a Vaccine Injury Lawsuit? How does it work?

The federal government created The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to provide financial compensation to individuals to file a petition and are found to have been injured by a VICP-covered vaccine.


How does the VICP work?

Rather than resorting to the traditional legal system, the VICP offers a no-fault alternative for injured individuals who believe a vaccination was causal in their injury. Lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and medical providers in the 1980s threatened to reduce vaccination rates in the US and cause vaccine shortages. This of course could have led to a resurgence of diseases that were previously preventable by vaccine. In an effort to prevent that, The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (also called the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act) was created. The objectives of the VICP include: (1) ensuring an adequate supply of vaccines; (2) stabilizing vaccine costs; and (3) establishing and maintaining an accessible and efficient forum for individuals found to be injured by certain vaccines such as the flu vaccine.

Compensation through the VICP comes from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund, which is funded by a $.75 excise tax on vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine administration to children. The excise tax is imposed on each dose of a vaccine, meaning the trivalent influenza vaccine is taxed $.75 because it prevents one disease, while the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which prevents three diseases, is taxed at $2.25. These taxes are imposed on vaccine makers. By filing a claim through the VICP, the injured party is petitioning the Court for compensation for pain and suffering and, if applicable, lost wages and reimbursement of past and future medical expenses.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosts the Program, conducts reviews of medical records and petitions, and makes Court-ordered payments. HHS is represented by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for all legal proceedings, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims makes final decisions regarding entitlement to and amount of compensation. In rare cases, claims do it head to trial.


Who can file a petition and what is the process?

Any person who received a covered vaccine and believes he or she was injured as a direct result of the vaccine can file a petition. Parents, guardians or legal representatives are also able to file petitions on behalf of children, disabled adults, and deceased individuals. 

The process of litigation can be summarized as follows:

  • An individual files a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims following an adverse event.
  • Medical staff from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reviews the petition, determines if it meets the medical criteria for compensation and makes a preliminary recommendation.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice drafts a report that includes both a legal analysis and the medical recommendation of the Department of Health & Human Services. This report is submitted to the Court.
  • The report is presented to a court-appointed special master, or vaccine court judge, who decides whether the petitioner should or should not be compensated. Occasionally, a hearing is required during which both parties can present evidence.
  • Once the special master determines the amount and type of compensation, the Court will order the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to award the same. 
  • Decisions of the special master may be appealed, and any petitioner who rejects the decision can file a civil claim against the vaccine manufacturer or the entity who administered the vaccine.


Which vaccines are covered under the program?

  • Diphtheria (e.g., DTP, DTaP, Tdap, DT, Td, TT)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b polysaccharide conjugate vaccines (e.g., Hib)
  • Hepatitis A (e.g., HAV)
  • Hepatitis B (e.g., HBV)
  • Human papillomavirus (e.g., HPV)
  • Seasonal influenza (e.g., Flu)
  • Measles (e.g., MMR)
  • Mumps (e.g., MMR, MR, M)
  • Meningococcal (e.g., MCV4, MPSV4, MenB-FHbp, MenB-4c)
  • Pertussis (e.g., DTP, DTAP, Tdap)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (e.g., PCV)(*note, pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines (PPSV, PPV) are not VICP-covered vaccines)
  • Polio (e.g., OPV or IPV)
  • Rotavirus (e.g., RV)
  • Rubella (e.g., MMR, MR, R)
  • Tetanus (e.g., Td)
  • Varicella (e.g., VAR)


Table vs. Non-Table Vaccine Injury Claims

The Vaccine Injury Table lists injuries and conditions associated with some covered vaccine. The table includes every compensable vaccination. The VICP includes a provision that the court will “presume” causation of an injury by a vaccine if the injured party meets the following requirements:

  • Received a vaccine listed in the “Vaccine” column of the Table;
  • Developed an illness, disability, injury or side effects listed in the middle column of the Table; and
  • Showed symptoms within the time period listed in the far right column of the Table.

This provision relieves a petitioner of his or her burden to prove causation. In “Table claims,” Respondent, or the Department of Health & Human Services, has the burden of disproving the petitioner’s claim. Table injury claims are generally resolved through concession or settlement.

However, many vaccine injuries are not “Table” claims and still result in compensation for the petitioner. If an individual received one of the covered vaccines and suffered any injury, including a severe allergic reaction, the vaccine is not presumed to be causal but can be proven as such. 


WHy choose my vaccine lawyer?

If you believe you may have suffered a vaccine injury, it is crucial to report your symptoms or adverse reactions to a medical professional as soon as possible. Prompt reporting of symptoms aids in establishing onset following receipt of the vaccine in question.

The staff at My Vaccine Lawyer has represented over 3,000 clients across the county for both Table and Non-Table claims. Each of our attorneys is licensed to practice in the United States Court of Federal Claims and has extensive experience with vaccine injury litigation. Our team of lawyers, medical staff and support staff will review your claim at absolutely no cost to you and determine the proper course of action. 

We have recovered millions of dollars in settlements for our clients, and guarantee an excellent experience from your initial consultation to the final phases of litigation. It can be overwhelming to navigate a vaccine-induced injury and treatment plans all while understanding the legal requirements of compensation through the VICP. Our mission is to bear the weight of the VICP process while our clients focus on reaching their pre-vaccination state.


Meet the Author

Leigh Finfer - Associate Attorney

Leigh A. Finfer is a vaccine and personal injury attorney at Muller Brazil and My Vaccine Lawyer. Mrs. Finfer has been with the firm since June 2018 and her practice includes representing vaccine injury victims, personal injury victims, and those who suffer injuries as a result of unsafe drugs and medical devices.

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