Have I Been Injured by a Vaccine?
Do you believe or have a concern that you have been injured by a vaccine that you received? While uncommon, such injuries do occur. Several different vaccines are routinely administered to children and adults throughout the country. While the vast majority of people vaccinated experience no ill effects, in a very small percentage of cases, people who receive vaccines suffer serious, sometimes life altering and occasionally fatal, adverse consequences.
Can I Receive Money for My Vaccine Related Injury?
If you, or a family member, have been injured by a vaccine covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, you may make a claim for compensation by filing a Petition with the United States Court of Federal Claims. If you prove the claims in your Petition that you have been injured by a covered vaccine, monetary compensation can be awarded from a trust fund established to compensate those who have been injured by vaccines. Compensation may be awarded for:
- past and future unreimbursed medical expenses;
- custodial and nursing care;
- loss of earned income;
- pain and suffering; and
- death due to a vaccine related injury.
Is The Vaccine I Received Covered By The Program?
Vaccines which are covered by the Vaccine Program include the following, among several others:
- Tetanus Vaccines (DTaP, DTP, DT, Td or TT)
- Measles Mumps and Rubella Vaccines (MMR, MR, M, R)
- Polio Vaccines (OPV, IPV)
- Hepatitis A Vaccines
- Hepatitis B Vaccines
- Trivalent Influenza Vaccines
- Human Papillomavirus Vaccines (HPV)
The complete list of covered vaccines can be found in the Vaccine Injury Table, available on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration website:
This table is updated periodically, with new vaccines and/or recognized injuries added to its matrix.
Do I Need To Hire An Attorney?
While you are not required to be represented by an attorney if you choose to file a Petition, an attorney experienced with cases in the Vaccine Program can assist you by:
- evaluating the factual and legal merits of your claim;
- drafting and filing the Petition and other required forms as the case progresses;
- gathering and presenting medical records, reports and other evidence;
- obtaining expert opinions from doctors and economists;
- examining the Government's witnesses and evaluating their reports;
- conducting legal research, drafting legal briefs and arguing legal questions that may arise before the Court;
- evaluating financial losses and developing a life-care plan, if necessary;
- negotiating a settlement of your case, and
- trying your case before the Court.
Vaccine Program cases are governed by the Vaccine Act and specialized rules of procedure established for vaccine injury cases before the Court of Federal Claims which differ in many particulars from the rules which apply to other State and Federal District Courts. An attorney familiar with the Vaccine Program and the Court of Federal Claims can assist you in navigating these substantive and procedural legal rules and requirements.
How Will I Pay My Attorney?
If you are represented by an attorney as a Petitioner in the Vaccine Program, you will not be responsible for your attorney's costs or fees. Rather, your attorney will file a separate claim to recover his or her fees and the costs of your Petition with the Court, and these will be paid to your attorney by the same trust fund from which compensation awards are paid.
Unlike a traditional contingency-fee based personal injury case, your attorney is not entitled to any portion of your award to cover his fees or costs. In fact, the Federal law creating the Vaccine Program prohibits your attorney from requesting any payment from you for filing and prosecuting your Petition under the Vaccine Program.
What Happens When I Make A Claim?
Once your Petition is filed, you vaccine injury claim is managed by and will ultimately be decided by a Special Master in the Office of Special Masters within the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. While the particular requirements of proof will vary depending on the vaccine you received and the nature of the injury you claim to have suffered, you will be required to submit medical records, obtain expert opinion testimony, and provide evidence of medical and other expenses incurred as a result of your injury.
Neither the vaccine maker nor any of the doctors or nurses who gave you the vaccine will be parties to your claim, and they are not potentially liable to you for any of your vaccine related injuries. Instead, an attorney from the U.S. Department of Justice representing the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for administering the trust fund from which compensation awards are paid (the Respondent, in the terminology of the Court), will serve as your adversary in the claim proceeding. The Respondent will evaluate your claim to determine whether the trust fund should compensate you for your claimed injury. The Respondent may choose to accept or to dispute the merits of your claim.
The Respondent may accept liability; that is, it may agree that you suffered an injury caused by a vaccine. In that event your attorney and the Respondent may be able to reach a negotiated settlement as to the amount of compensation to which you are entitled. Alternatively, the Respondent may not accept liability, but nevertheless may be willing to negotiate a settlement of the amount of compensation in order to avoid any further time and expense of evaluating or perhaps, contesting your claim.
If the Respondent does not accept your claim or agree to settle it, you will be required to prove to the Court that you suffered an injury, that this injury was caused by the vaccine you received, and that your claimed expenses were caused by this injury. This may require the submission of additional medical records, expert medical opinion evidence, and you and/or your doctor(s) may be required to testify before the Court at a hearing. After the hearing, or after both the Petitioner and Respondent have submitted all of their evidence to the Court, the Special Master assigned to your case will make a determination as to whether you are entitled to compensation. If you are found to be entitled to compensation, the Special Master will then make a further determination as to the amount of compensation that you will be awarded.
How Much Time Do I Have To Submit My Claim?
Your right to make a claim for compensation for injuries resulting from the administration of a vaccine is time-limited by Federal law. A Petition seeking compensation for injuries allegedly caused by a vaccine must be filed within three (3) years of the first onset of symptoms. A Petition seeking compensation for a death allegedly caused by a vaccine must be filed within two (2) years of the date of death.
Why Was This Program Created?
Congress passed The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, often referred to as the "Vaccine Act." Found at 42 U.S.C. Sections 300aa-1 through 300aa-34, the Vaccine Act established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ("Vaccine Program" or "VICP") in an effort to both ensure the integrity of the nation's vaccine supply, and to provide assistance to those who suffer injury as a result of receiving certain vaccines. To achieve this latter goal, the Vaccine Program includes a no-fault compensation system through which a person who has suffered injury or death as a result of having received certain vaccines may make a claim for monetary compensation.