Representing Victims of Vaccine Injuries and Their Families
Most people who get vaccines experience no serious problems or side effects. However, like any medicine, a vaccine in rare cases may case a serious problem such as a severe allergic reaction or death. A vaccine may be administered negligently or in a manner which causes injury.
Congress enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, which resulted in the creation of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Congress enacted this law after lawsuits threatened to cause vaccine shortages and reduce U.S. vaccination rates. See Pub. L. No. 99-660, 100 Stat. 3755 (1986) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 300-aa-1 to -34). Compensation awarded to injured persons is financed by an excise tax on vaccines.
The VICP is a no-fault alternative to the traditional legal system for resolving vaccine injury cases. Congress intended that the VICP provide individuals with a faster and less adversarial alternative to costly and lengthy civil lawsuits. The VICP provides individuals with an opportunity to file a claim for financial compensation.
Any individual, regardless of age, who received a covered vaccine and believes he or she was injured or died as a result of the vaccine may file a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Parents, legal guardians and legal representatives may file a petition on behalf of children, disabled adults and individuals who are deceased.
It doesn't cost you anything to hire an attorney to help with a vaccine injury.
The VICP is administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice represent HHS in the proceedings. The Office of Special Masters, which is an office of the Court of Federal Claims, administers and resolves vaccine injury claims.
The Vaccine Injury Act established the Vaccine Injury Table. A person who has suffered a vaccine injury pursuant to criteria for vaccines listed in the table establishes a presumption that the injury was vaccine-related. HHS may rebut the presumption by proving that the alleged injury was caused by factors unrelated to the vaccine.
A person with a vaccine injury which does not meet the criteria outlined in the Vaccine Table may still recover compensation by proving the vaccine injury was actually caused by a covered vaccine. The person must show by a preponderance of the evidence (1) a medical theory causally connecting the vaccine and injury; (2) a logical sequence of cause and effect showing that the vaccine was reason for the injury; and (3) a showing of proximate temporal relationship between the vaccine and injury. Such proof usually requires testimony from a medical expert such as a physician.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer to help me with my vaccine injury?
Short answer: Nothing.
An injured person may retain an attorney to represent him, her or a loved one in a vaccine injury case. The law provides that the attorney’s fees and case costs of the injured person must be paid by the VICP, as approved by the Court of Federal Claims.With limited exceptions, a petition must be filed within three years after the first symptom of the alleged vaccine injury.The attorney is paid on an hourly fee basis, not on a contingency fee basis. The injured person does not pay the attorney’s fees and case costs, which may include the cost of an expert witness such as a physician.
Even if a claim is denied, if certain requirements are met, the Court may order the attorney’s fees and costs to be paid. Regardless of whether the claim is granted or denied, the injured individual does not pay the attorney’s fees and costs.
What is the process of pursuing a vaccine injury claim?
- An individual files a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. An individual may do so without a lawyer, but the preparation and submission of the petition and supporting documentation, as well as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and special rules which apply in vaccine cases, are complex. Most people use a lawyer, especially since the lawyer is paid by the VICP.
- The medical staff of the Department of Health and Human Services reviews the petition and documentation, determines if the case meets the medical criteria for compensation and makes a preliminary recommendation on whether the claim should be admitted or denied.
- Attorneys of the Department of Justice prepare a report that includes the medical recommendation and legal analysis and submits it to the Court.
- The report is presented to a court-appointed special master, who decides whether the petitioner should be compensated. A hearing may be held in which both parties can present evidence, or a case may be resolved without a hearing. If compensation is awarded, the special master determines the amount and type of compensation.
- The parties, with the help of their attorneys, may resolve a case by settlement or mediation after all necessary evidence and documentation is presented.
- If a case is not voluntarily settled or mediated, and if financial compensation is awarded by the special master, the special master orders the Department of Health and Human Services to pay the financial award to the individual.
- The special master’s decision may be appealed and petitioners who reject the decision of the Court (or withdraw their petitions within certain timelines) may file a claim in civil court against the vaccine company and/or the health care provider who administered the vaccine.
What is the deadline for filing a vaccine injury claim?
With limited exceptions, a petition must be filed within three years after the first symptom of the alleged vaccine injury. If the person died, the petition must be filed within two years of the date of death and within four years after the first symptom of the alleged vaccine injury that resulted in death.
We Represent Victims of Vaccine Injuries and Their Families
We have successfully represented victims in vaccine injuries and would appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about your case. Contact us by calling locally at (803) 834-7097 or toll free at (877) 276-0533 and schedule your free consultation.