While the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal benefit program, securing compensation under the VICP is wholly unlike seeking benefits under Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. In order to seek compensation for a vaccine injury, you must file a petition in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (which is also known as the Vaccine Court), and you must be prepared to litigate your claim if necessary. However, many VICP claims settle; and, if you hire an experienced vaccine injury lawyer to represent you, you may be able to obtain a fair settlement without the need to argue your case in the Vaccine Court.
10 Steps Involved in Seeking Compensation for a Vaccine Injury
But, before you get to the point of thinking about settlement, there are several steps you will need to take in order to establish a viable claim. Here is an overview of the process of seeking compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program:
1. Determining if You are Eligible to File a Claim
There are three basic eligibility criteria for seeking compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. In order to file a VICP claim, you must:
- Have received a covered vaccine;
- Have been diagnosed with an injury that lasts more than six months from the date of vaccination or that results in inpatient hospitalization and surgical intervention; and,
- You must file your claim within three years of the first symptom or other manifestation of onset of your injury.
2. Determining How Much You are Entitled to Recover
Once you determine that you are eligible to file a claim, you must then determine how much you are entitled to recover. Under the VICP, eligible claimants can receive compensation for:
- Current and future medical expenses;
- Current and future loss of income; and,
- Current and future pain and suffering.
Obtaining a prompt diagnosis is a key early step on the road to filing a successful VICP claim. Once you have a clear understanding of your injury’s long-term effects, you can then work with your vaccine injury lawyer to calculate just compensation.
3. Collecting Evidence
When filing a vaccine injury claim under the VICP, you must have evidence of both (i) your medical diagnosis, and (ii) the financial and non-financial costs of your injury. This evidence will include your relevant medical and employment records, but it will include various other forms of documentation as well. Your lawyer will be able to help you gather the evidence you need to prove your right to compensation under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
4. Preparing and Filing Your Petition
With a clear understanding of your vaccine injury’s long-term effects, and with evidence of both the cause and effects of your injury, you are now ready to prepare your petition. This is the formal legal document that is used to file a claim under the VICP. You will need to make sure your petition includes all required information; and, in addition to filing your petition with the Vaccine Court, you must also serve a copy of your petition on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Review
Once you file your petition with the Vaccine Court and serve a copy on DHHS, personnel from DHHS will review your petition to determine if it establishes a compensable claim. As of late 2020, DHHS reports that this review process is taking approximately 14 months.
6. DHHS Decision Regarding Concession
If DHHS personnel determine that you are entitled to compensation, then your claim will be “conceded,” and it will move to the next stage of calculating your compensation. If DHHS does not concede your claim, then you will need to either work toward negotiating a settlement or begin preparing to argue your claim in the vaccine court.
If DHHS does not concede your claim, this does not mean that you will be denied compensation. In the VICP’s 2020 fiscal year, more than half of all compensated claims (340 out of 618) were resolved via settlement, and 40 claimants received compensation following a court decision.
7. Settlement Negotiations
Settlement negotiations can focus on either establishing the right to compensation, establishing the amount of compensation to be awarded, or both. During settlement negotiations, the evidence you submitted with your petition will be of critical importance, and you will need to be able to rely on the representation of a vaccine injury lawyer who has significant experience negotiating VICP claims.
8. Stipulation or Proffer
Most VICP claims are resolved by stipulation or proffer. These are similar outcomes that result in an award of compensation without the need to argue your claim in the Vaccine Court. If DHHS accepts your claim or you are able to negotiate a settlement, your lawyer and the government lawyers representing DHHS will prepare the necessary filings to finalize your claim and authorize payment under the VICP.
9. Hearing (if Necessary)
If DHHS does not concede your claim and is not willing to settle, then you will need to take your claim to the Vaccine Court. This will involve presenting your claim in a hearing before a Special Master. The Special Master will hear arguments from both sides, and then he or she will render a binding decision based upon the arguments and evidence presented.
10. Final Decision
Regardless of whether your claim is resolved via proffer, stipulation or hearing, it will end with a Special Master at the Vaccine Court rendering a Final Decision. If you are awarded compensation, then you will receive payment from the VICP in accordance with the terms of your award.
Do You Have a VICP Claim? Schedule a Free Consultation with Vaccine Injury Lawyer Leah V. Durant
If you have questions about filing a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, we encourage you to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC. To request an appointment with vaccine injury lawyer Leah V. Durant, please call 202-800-1711 or contact us online today.
Leah Durant Bio
Experienced litigation attorney Leah Durant focuses on representing clients in complex vaccine litigation matters. Leah Durant is the owner and principal attorney of the Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC, a litigation firm based in Washington, DC. Leah Durant and her staff represent clients and their families who suffer from vaccine-related injuries, adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related deaths. The Law Offices of Leah V. Durant, PLLC is dedicated to assisting individuals in recovering the highest level of compensation as quickly and efficiently as possible. To learn more, contact vaccine attorney Leah Durant today.