The Vaccine Compensation Court

In the United States, if a person is harmed by a product, they have the right to seek compensation through the judicial system. This is not the case for those injured by vaccines.

In the 1980’s, lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers and medical providers began to rise. Vaccine companies responded by claiming they would stop making vaccines because they were not making profits due to litigation costs. Some vaccine companies even stopped manufacturing vaccines, causing a national health concern because of vaccine shortage.

icon of judge or auction hammerDue to pressures on Congress by the vaccine manufacturers and the medical industry, The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-660) was created and on October 1, 1988, and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) was established.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) is a federal program established by Congress which provides compensation to children injured by certain vaccines.

Many people and even attorneys do not know that such a court exists. Millions of dollars have been awarded to vaccine injured individuals. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stated that more than 1,300 childhood vaccine-injury cases compensated in vaccine court have involved encephalopathy (brain disease), seizure disorders, or in most cases, both diagnoses.1

What makes compensation in this court different than traditional courts?

If someone is injured by a medication in the United States, the normal channel for compensation is to sue the manufacturer. If found guilty, the manufacturer pays the damages, and if enough suits are brought against them, the medication they might be recalled, more safety tests might be required, manufacturing might be stopped, etc.

When someone is vaccine injured, they are not able to sue the manufacturer. Instead, they must make a claim with the NVICP. If the NVICP determines that the person was indeed injured by a vaccine, the damages are paid by the tax funded Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund (not the vaccine manufacturer).

Manufactures are not required to disclose any information with the public that they would have to disclose if they case went to trial. Therefore, many safety concerns are not revealed, and vaccine manufactures are not held accountable for damages.

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund

Provides funding to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which compensates vaccine-related injury and death claims from specific vaccines administered on or after October 1, 1988.

The trust fund receives a $0.75 excise tax on vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine vaccine administration to children. The excise tax is imposed on each dose of a vaccine. 2

All court costs, attorney fees and compensatory damage awards are funded through the trust fund, which is currently valued at $4 billion dollars. Individuals who bring a claim to court do not pay any fees out of pocket, and it is illegal for an attorney to collect fees from a client. Attorneys are paid, win or lose, as long as there is reasonable basis for the claim.

However, there is no jury trial or discovery phase. Note that the discovery phase is instrumental in many court cases because it reveals internal information that would normally not be made public.

For example, after a product recall, an automobile or drug manufacturer is required by law to release internal documents, which often disclose manufacturer knowledge of the defects or safety concerns that inevitably lead to the recall.

How do I know if I have a claim suitable for this court?

An individual who believes they have been vaccine injured needs to do some initial research to determine if the injury in question qualifies for compensation through the court.

An attorney can expedite the medical record review and inquiries necessary to determine eligibility for trial. An individual or attorney can file the initial documents to the court via mail or electronically.

There are approximately 100 attorneys throughout the country who specialize in vaccine injury litigation; however, any licensed attorney can file a claim in vaccine court. The attorney simply needs to gain admittance into this special court through standard protocols.

What do I need to file or determine if I have a case suitable for court?

  • Medical Records
    Comprehensive and accurate medical records are essential and govern the facts in the case. The courts discount parental reports of injury. Therefore, if symptoms are not documented in the patient’s medical chart, the case will likely be dismissed.
  • Adherence to Table Injury Reporting Timeframes
    An essential question in vaccine litigation is whether or not the injury occurred within the timeframe allowed. A “table injury,” or an injury resulting from a vaccine on a list of covered vaccines and associated injuries, is backed by law and specifies the select vaccine-induced injuries that are compensated. The time frames are rigid. If a table injury requires reporting injury within 5-15 days, such as with the MMR vaccine, a case can be dismissed for being a few hours short of five days or beyond the 15 days.On the contrary, a “non-table injury” must go through a medical review process, which is a subjective interpretation of the case. Awards and decisions will vary. Most vaccines do not have table injuries and thus take longer to resolve.Review table injury details on VAERS website
  • 2015_10_28 iStock Compensated vaccination cases

    Examples of Compensated and Settled Cases

    Since the program’s inception in 1988, 4150 claims have been determined compensable, paying out approximately $3.18 billion dollars.

    read more

The court process

Court appearances are rare for most, as conferences are typically handled by email, mail or phone. Hearings are generally reserved for cases when eyewitnesses are present.
No one can predict how long the process will take from beginning to end. There are cases which have been resolved within one year, and there are other cases which are still pending, more than 10 years after being filed.

Should I pursue compensation for injuries sustained via vaccines?

The vaccine court is the only mechanism for compensation of vaccine injuries. Injuries vary in their severity, duration and long term costs. An individual should review the facts of their situation with their family and attorney. As with any court proceeding, this is not an easy or convenient pursuit.

Learn more about the NVICP

References
  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kirby/nih-agency-head-backs-vac_b_325221.html
  2. http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/index.html

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