While most vaccine complications are rare, when they do occur, they can have profound impacts on those who suffer them. These side effects can last for a lifetime and can significantly detract from the patient’s quality of life. In some instances, the complications can keep the patient from working or from living a normal life. These side effects have physical and economic costs for those who suffer them. The good news is that there is a way to receive compensation for a vaccine injury that has been suffered. Not only that, but the process is easier and more streamlined than filing a lawsuit in a regular court.
How did this system for compensation come about? Congress recognized the importance of providing vaccinations to children. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies were growing hesitant to produce vaccinations since they were concerned about how legal liability would threaten their bottom line. The third piece of the puzzle was that the existing court system made it timely and costly for those injured to obtain relief. Thus, Congress sought to find a way to protect both policy and the interests of everyone involved. With that in mind, they established the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) which would fundamentally change the way that patients could obtain legal relief.
The central part of the VICP is the fund that exists to pay compensation claims. The money comes from a tax that is charged each time a vaccine is purchased. The taxes are not paid to the government, but go solely to the VICP. In this manner, the VICP is a self-funding mechanism.
The VICP establishes an entirely independent system housed within the federal courts for the litigation of vaccine injury claims. This means that you do not have a file a lawsuit in the state court system or join a class action lawsuit in order to receive compensation. While becoming eligible for compensation is not automatic, the process is certainly easier and more streamlined than otherwise.
To start this process, you would file a claim with the fund. The VICP establishes its own separate system within the Court of Federal Claims. This is somewhat less than a traditional formal court system, although the VICP still has the power to decide your claims. Instead of a formal judge, a special master with judicial power will decide your claims.
The first consideration is whether the vaccine is covered by the VICP. Adults can still be eligible to receive compensation so long as a vaccine is one that is traditionally given to children. It is for this reason that lawsuits relating to the shingles vaccines are going through the regular court system as opposed to the VICP since the shingles vaccine is only for adults.
In addition to being a covered vaccine, the injury must also be covered as well. The VICP routinely updates the injury table to add covered injuries. For example, the shoulder injuries known as SIRVA that result from errors in how vaccines are administered were recognized as a covered injury in the earlier part of this decade. Before that, it was not compensable. Now, it is one of the most commonly compensated types of claims.
The initial process for filing a claim requires that you submit documentation of your injury. This is generally in the form of medical records. While the healthcare provider may not always state that your injury was caused by a vaccine, you will at least have some proof of the injury that you suffered. This will be a part of your petition that is submitted to the court. The petition is the beginning of your legal process.
Oftentimes, your claim may not be opposed and you will proceed directly to the court for further action. However, in some cases, the lawyers for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with oversight of the fund, may oppose your petition. After the government lawyers have reviewed it, the Department of Justice will make a recommendation to the administrative judge in charge of your case as well as provide a legal report. The court will then make the final decision as to whether you can receive compensation. The ruling will also inform you of how much compensation you are to receive. In certain instances, there may be a hearing about your case in front of the court. If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal it or you can then file a claim against the vaccine maker in civil court. However, you must start the process with the VICP.
As you can see, while this is a more informal process, there are still many ways in which you will benefit from receiving legal counsel along the way. The VICP has its own distinct process, and it is helpful to have someone on your side who understands the special rules of the VICP, both written and unwritten. The strength of your petition will determine whether you receive compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates are well-versed in handling vaccine injury claims. If you or a loved one has been injured by a vaccine, contact them today for an evaluation of your case.
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