When a vaccine injury results in disability or death, it can take a substantial toll on a person and his or her family. In addition to the physical and emotional consequences, medical bills, lost income, ongoing medical care and treatment, and other economic costs can be staggering, forcing many to seek their day in court.
Unlike other types of lawsuits, there’s a specific court for vaccine-related injuries, so it’s important to know what to expect when bringing your vaccine injury claim.
The Vaccine Court Determines If You Are Eligible for Compensation
The first step in seeking compensation for a vaccine injury is to file a petition against the Secretary of Health & Human Services, not the vaccine manufacturer. The petition must describe the type of vaccine received and how that vaccine caused or significantly aggravated an injury.
Because vaccine-related injuries are all too common, the Health & Human Services Department created as Vaccine Injury Table that lists the different kinds of harms. If your injury is on the table, then the Special Master can decide your eligibility without having to bring in expert witnesses or conducting a causation hearing.
If the vaccine injury isn’t listed on the table, which happens more often than not, expert reports and a causation hearing will be necessary. A causation hearing is a non-jury proceeding that’s very similar to a courtroom trial in front of a judge. Experts and fact witnesses give testimony and are examined by attorneys on both sides as well as the Special Master. Don’t expect a decision at the end of the causation hearing – it can take several months for the Special Master to issue a written decision as to whether you are entitled to financial support.
Assessing Damages for Vaccine-Related Injuries
Once the eligibility requirement is satisfied, the case moves on and the amount of compensation is determined. The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program lays out the damages you may receive:
• Pain and suffering, capped at $250,000;
• Lost wages;
• Past out-of-pocket medical expenses (those not reimbursable by insurance); and
• Actual future medical needs (those not reimbursable by any other source).
An expert opinion will likely be required, setting forth a life care plan for the injured individual. Damages are often negotiated between the parties with the assistance of status conferences with the Special Master. However, if necessary, the Special Master can also schedule another hearing with expert and fact witness.
Congress provided in the Vaccine Program for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs separate from any compensation award, regardless of whether a petitioner prevails. Under the Vaccine Program, attorneys may neither pursue nor accept funds from petitioner in addition to or in lieu of fees and costs awarded under the program.
Talk to an Attorney Who Can Help You Navigate the Vaccine Court System
Since the enactment of the Act, the Vaccine Court has awarded billions of dollars to vaccine victims for their catastrophic vaccine injuries; although, two out of three applicants are denied compensation.
While it may have been Congress’s intention that the program “provide individuals a swift, flexible, and less adversarial alternative to the often costly and lengthy civil arena of traditional tort litigation,” the Vaccine Program still takes more than a year, and often several years, to navigate before any compensation may be received.
If you or a loved one has become disabled due to a vaccine, or if a family member has died from the administration of a vaccine, you need a lawyer who is well-versed in this area of the law and has experience representing clients in the Vaccine Court. The Lamothe Law Firm has that experience – please contact us today to discuss your case and possible compensation.