Most vaccines pose minimal risks and cause no harm to the children who receive them. However, if you have been injured by a childhood vaccine, you may be able to receive compensation through the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The federal government established the VICP to take the burden of handling these claims away from vaccine manufacturers. Otherwise, litigation costs might prevent vaccine manufacturers from developing new vaccines to combat diseases and improve public health. The Vaccine Trust Fund makes payments to eligible claimants, who must file a claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. A special master (a lawyer appointed by the court for this purpose) will review a claim and determine whether an individual is eligible.
Vaccines covered by the VICP include those for influenza, measles, meningitis, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, polio, pneumococcal conjugate, HPV, varicella (chicken pox), and rotavirus, among others. The federal government regularly expands the list of covered vaccines. You can file a claim if you were injured by a covered vaccine, your child was injured by a covered vaccine, or you are the personal representative of the estate of someone who died from receiving a covered vaccine.
You need to prove causation, which means that the vaccine caused the injury or condition, or that it exacerbated a pre-existing condition. The federal government provides a vaccine injury table, which lists certain injuries and conditions that are known to be connected to certain vaccines. If the patient suffered those symptoms during the time period listed in the table, this will establish causation. However, even if the patient suffered from a condition that is not covered on the vaccine injury table, they still may be able to establish causation. They would need to present medical documentation and potentially testimony from medical providers.
The vaccine injury must have caused a certain degree of harm. The patient’s symptoms must have lasted for at least six months after they received the vaccine, or they must have needed to undergo surgery and spend time in the hospital. If the patient died because of the vaccine injury, this also meets the requirement.
Benefits for Vaccine Injuries
A successful claim may result in payments for past and future medical expenses related to the vaccine injury, as well as rehabilitation expenses and related costs. There is no cap on these payments. A claimant also may be able to receive compensation for their past and future pain and suffering, which is capped at $250,000. Lost earnings, attorney fees, and court costs are covered without a cap.
In the tragic event that someone dies because of a covered vaccine, their estate can receive a payment of up to $250,000, in addition to attorney fees and court costs.
Filing a Claim
You will need to file a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that provides the basic information related to the vaccine injury. It should state the name of the patient, the type of vaccine that harmed them, and the location and date of the vaccine. The petition also should state the symptoms that the patient has suffered and the date of their onset, as well as the duration of the symptoms. You should include medical documentation that may be necessary to establish your eligibility. If you cannot pay the fee for filing the petition, you can contact the court to ask for a waiver. There are also certain formal requirements that you will need to meet, such as including a cover sheet. You should make sure to comply with these requirements, since your claim will be rejected otherwise.
An attorney can help you prepare a petition, although it is not necessary. A claimant can get reimbursed for reasonable attorney fees if they file a claim in good faith, regardless of whether their claim is successful.
The special master and the claimant (or their attorney) will receive a report on the claim compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services and a Department of Justice attorney. HHS will handle the medical aspects of the report, and the DOJ attorney will handle the legal components. The special master will determine whether and how much the claimant should be paid. If the claimant disagrees with the decision, they can appeal the decision to a judge in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. HHS also has a right to appeal if they disagree with the decision. Further appeals may be made to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and then the U.S. Supreme Court.