How can my child recover damages for adverse effects caused by a vaccination?
Like many parents, Theresa and Lucas Black of Mooresville, North Carolina trusted that vaccinating their child would be safe. Days after her vaccinations, however, their three-month-old daughter suffered seizures that threatened her life. A Charlotte neurologist determined that the vaccine had caused encephalopathy. Years later, her brain injury left her profoundly disabled, unable to speak, and on a feeding tube.
In 2006, a federal “vaccine court” concurred with the neurologist's assessment and awarded the Blacks' daughter almost $2 million in damages, along with $250,000 annually to cover her medical expenses for life.
In 1988 Congress established a vaccine court to deal with these unusual cases. Since then, the little-known National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has awarded $2.8 billion in compensation for vaccine injuries. In 2014, 365 victims received compensation for vaccination-related injuries.
Congress created the program to protect pharmaceutical companies from massive lawsuits, which threatened to force companies out of the market, creating shortages of vaccines. Now plaintiffs must first seek compensation from the vaccine court, with damage awards paid for by a surcharge imposed on all vaccines. Awards have ranged from $1,100 to more than $30 million.
The fund currently has a balance of $3.5 billion, and decisions on awards are made by special masters in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Though there are no punitive damages or payments for losses to family members other than the victim, the process is faster and has a lower burden of proof than actions in civil court.
To simplify claims, a table of injuries lists symptoms that can be blamed on the vaccine, if they occurred within a specified time period. In the Blacks' case, the window for developing seizures after a pertussis vaccination was 72 hours. Because their daughter's seizures started within 70 hours, her claim was covered. In recent years, cases have become more adversarial, however, and plaintiffs must often prove actual causation, calling expert witnesses.
If your child has suffered side effects, adverse effects or short- or long-term consequences from a vaccine, you may have a valid claim. Vaccine attorney Leah Durant can help you successfully navigate the complex and poorly understood area of vaccine law. For a consultation on whether your claim may be covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, please call the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC Vaccine Lawyer at (202)800-1711.