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Vaccine Injury and the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

Vaccines can cause injuries and death.  These are facts.  Facts recognized by Congress and the companies that manufacture vaccines.  Concerns over vaccine injuries and deaths resulted in the passage of the Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.  The Act created the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program; a system designed to pay compensation for vaccine related injuries and deaths.

So how does this program work?  The program is administered jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  The case is started when a petition is filed with the Court on behalf of a person who has been injured or killed by a vaccine.  The petition is reviewed by HHS and a recommendation is made to the Court.  An attorney for the Justice Department represents HHS and handles this.  A Special Master will hold hearings on the petition and then make a decision on any award of compensation.  The decisions of Special Masters are appealable to the Federal Courts. 

In order for a person to qualify for eligibility under the Act, the petitioner must demonstrate that (1) an injury found in the Vaccine Injury Table occurred; or (2) prove that the vaccine caused the claimed injury; or (3) prove that the vaccine aggravated a pre-existing injury.  The table can be found at: http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/table.htm

If you believe there has been an injury or death caused by a vaccine, the time in which to file a claim is very limited.  Failure to meet the deadlines is likely to result in a loss of the claim forever.  Generally speaking, the following guidelines apply - always check with a qualified attorney to determine the proper timeline for your case.

The general filing deadlines are:

  • For an injury, your claim must be filed within 3 years after the first symptom of the vaccine injury.
  • For a death, your claim must be filed within 2 years of the death and 4 years after the start of first symptom of the vaccine-related injury from which the death occurred.

When a new vaccine is covered by the VICP or when a new 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.

The forgoing is a brief look at vaccine injuries; it is not legal advice or a complete description of the system or how to make a claim.  Cases can be complex and the time limitations in which to file claim mean that if you believe you or a loved one was injured or killed by a vaccine, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney. 

If you like logic trees or just feel a bit wonkish, check out the video below from Hofstra University School of Law's Law, Lagic & Technology Lab

Categories: Vaccine Injury