What Is the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or VICP, is a result of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. Two years later, in October of 1988, the VICP was established in order to ensure both stable costs for, and an adequate supply of, vaccines. In addition, the VICP also established and now maintains an efficient and accessible forum for all individuals who are found to have been injured by certain vaccines.

As a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system, the VICP resolves vaccine injury claims through the provision of appropriate compensation to individuals with certain injuries. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Health and Human Services both play important roles in the VICP, but the United States Court of Federal Claims ultimately decides who will be paid.

How Does Filing a Vaccine Injury Claim Work?

For a vaccination personal injury claim to be eligible, the claim needs to be filed within three years after the first symptom of vaccine injury occurred. If the injury resulted in a death, the deadline is no later than two years after the death and no later than four years after the beginning of the first symptom of the injury that ultimately resulted in the death. The claim itself is filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims. From here it is adjudicated by Special Masters from the Court. Representation by a vaccine attorney is highly recommended because the cases are complicated both medically and legally. The procedures for prosecuting a vaccine claim are unique and often confusing to non-lawyers.

What Are the Legal Fees to File a Vaccine Claim?

The Law Office of Leah V. Durant, PLLC, files vaccine cases under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation at no charge to its clients.  Our fees are typically paid at the conclusion of the case by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, more commonly known as the “vaccine court” and are derived from the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund.  That means that our service comes at no risk and no cost to you.  Our firm also covers all associated litigation costs, including expert witness fees and travel expenses.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Vaccine Injury Claim?

Although the National Injury Compensation Program was designed to be a non-adversarial and non-litigious system, in reality, vaccine cases filed under the National Injury Compensation Program are often very difficult, hard-fought.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services is represented in each case by highly trained an experienced vaccine litigation attorneys.  Vaccine cases involve complicated legal, medical, and factual issues. You need an experienced vaccine attorney who knows how to litigate vaccine cases working on your behalf.  We highly recommend that you do not attempt to represent yourself in the National Vaccine Compensation Program. Hiring a vaccine attorney to represent you should come at no cost to you because all legal fees are paid by the Court of Federal Claims and are taken out of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund.

How Do I file a Case Under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?

All cases in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program begin with the filing of a petition with the US Court of Federal Claims in Washington, DC. Once the vaccine petition is filed, a Special Master, who is a specialized judge is assigned to the vaccine case and decides the outcome in the event the case proceeds to a hearing (or trial). Cases that do not proceed to a hearing (or trial) are either settled by the parties in advance of the vaccine hearing or conceded by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

How Long Does This Process Take?

Cases brought under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program are designed to be quicker than regular civil litigation. With some exceptions, it usually is. You can normally expect to receive a vaccine hearing on whether your vaccine caused the injury within approximately one year. Cases that settle typically conclude within six months. Other parts of the Vaccine Program are extremely cumbersome and may take much longer. Once a case is settled, it usually takes six months for settlement funds to be received.

What Kind of Compensation is Awarded in Vaccine Injury Compensation Claims?

For a vaccine injury, compensation may include pain and suffering a reasonable amount for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs are available. Compensation for pain and suffering is limited to a maximum of $250,000. There is no limit for medical expenses and lost wages.

For vaccine-related death cases you may be paid up to $250,000 as a death benefit for the estate of the deceased; and reasonable lawyers’ fees and other legal costs or legal costs.

What Are the Deadlines for Filing a Claim?

As a general rule, for an injury, claims must be filed within 3 years after the first symptom of the vaccine injury. In the case of a death claim, claims must be filed within 2 years of the death.

When a new vaccine is covered by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program or when a new vaccine injury/condition is added to the Vaccine Injury Table (Table), claims that do not meet the general filing deadlines must be filed within 2 years from the date the vaccine or injury/condition is added to the Table for injuries or deaths that occurred up to 8 years before the Table change. The Table lists and explains injuries that are presumed to be caused by vaccines. For details about the Table, go to Vaccine Injury Table.

Who Is Eligible to File a Claim?

There are three types of people who may file for a vaccine injury compensation claim with the VICP. These groups include the following:

  1. Individuals who received a vaccine that is covered by the VICP and believe themselves to have suffered injury of some sort as a result;
  2. Individuals who are the parents or otherwise legal guardians of a child or disabled adult who received a covered vaccination and is now thought to be injured because of it;
  3. An individual who is acting as the legal representative of the estate of a deceased person whose death is thought to be linked to their receiving one of these covered vaccines.

For the claim to be valid, the injury or side effect in must have lasted for six months or longer or must have resulted in hospitalization and surgery. Injuries that result in death are also eligible for a claim.

What to Do After Suffering a Vaccine Injury?

For individuals who have you suffered an injury caused by a vaccine, it is recommended that they seek treatment from a doctor, and consult with an experienced vaccine injury lawyer to determine whether compensation may be available. To be compensated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), individuals must first file a petition with the United States Court of Federal Claims. The petition is a legal document that commences the litigation process before the Court. Although individuals may prepare and file the petition for compensation on their own, it is recommended that they seek the assistance of a qualified vaccine attorney to assist them. Although hiring an attorney is not required, because it is a legal process, many petitioners in vaccine claims hire an attorney to represent them. Reasonable attorneys’ fees are paid for by the Court, so the cost of hiring a qualified vaccine attorney will come at no financial cost to the injured party.

The United States Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters, provides resources for petitioners, including step by step information of how to file and submit a claim for compensation.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Vaccine Injuries?

Special rules are adhered to when filing a claim for vaccine injury compensation. These include statutes of limitations that are unique to VICP claims. For a vaccine injury, the petitioner must file his or her claim within three years of the first symptom or manifestation of the injury. For a death claim, the petitioner must file within two years of the date of death and within four years of the first symptom or manifestation.

How Common Are Vaccine-Related Illnesses and Injuries?

The actual number of vaccine-related injuries remains largely unknown due to the fact that many people fail to seek medical attention for their injuries and may neglect to report their condition as an adverse vaccine event. However, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)[f2] still receives more than 30,000 reports of vaccine induced injuries every year, and each year hundreds of people file claims for compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

How Do I Know if I Have a Claim Under the VICP?

A: Petitioners in vaccine claims must first demonstrate that they received a vaccine covered under the VICP. Although some adult vaccines are covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, the majority of vaccines the VICP covers are those vaccines routinely recommended and administered to infants and children in the United States.

In order for a vaccine to be covered under the Vaccine Program, the category of vaccine must be both recommended for routine administration to children by the CDC and subject to an excise tax by Federal law.

The Vaccine Injury Table lists injuries and reactions associated with many of the covered vaccinations. If the first onset of symptom of these injuries and/or illnesses occurs within the specified timeframes listed, and the injury meets the definition included in the Vaccine Injury Table, it is presumed that the vaccine caused petitioner’s injury or condition unless another cause is shown.

If an individual’s injury and/or condition is not on the Vaccine Injury Table or if their injury or condition fails to meet requirements listed on the Vaccine Table, petitioner must prove through providing evidence that the injury was caused by the vaccination they received. Some forms of acceptable evidence are expert witness testimony, medical records, or medical opinion.

It should be noted, however, that the Vaccine Injury Table is not exhaustive, and certain illnesses not listed on the Vaccine Injury Table may still be compensated. If you have suffered an unlisted vaccine-related injury (such as a vaccine related shoulder injury, or Guillain Barre Syndrome, you may still be entitled to seek compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

What to Do if Your Vaccine Injury Is Not Listed on the Vaccine Injury Table?

The Vaccine Injury Table provides a list of illnesses, injuries, and conditions associated with vaccines that are covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  If, however, your reaction or illness is not listed on the Vaccine Injury Table, or if the injury you sustained fails to meet requirements established by the Table, you may still be entitled to compensation.

In fact, the vaccine lawyers at the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC regularly help clients who have suffered “off table” injuries obtain compensation for their pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, and other financial losses.

Does the Government Settle VICP Claims?

Yes. In fact, few cases filed under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, require a full hearing. If the evidence shows that you are entitled to compensation, the government’s attorneys may be willing to offer a fair settlement, obviating the need for a trial, or hearing, altogether.

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