Vaccine injury cases are very complex. They nearly always involve complex medical and scientific issues. They are also litigated under a set of procedural rules that are specific to vaccine injury claims and not typical to traditional personal injury lawsuits. For these reasons, most personal injury attorneys will not take vaccine-injury cases. And, those that do, typically find themselves in an undesirable position of not understanding the nuances of litigating a vaccine injury case. Therefore, if you have suffered an injury after receiving a vaccine, you should choose your legal representative carefully.
Always be sure that your vaccine lawyer has experience handling vaccine injury claims. You also want to be sure to hire a law firm that will not bail out once the going gets tough.
To help explain why vaccine injury claims are unlike other, more traditional personal injury lawsuits – and thus, the significance of hiring an attorney who regularly litigates vaccine injury cases – it is important to understand the following.
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Federal law prohibits the filing of most vaccine injury claims in regular state or federal court. In the late 1980s, vaccine manufacturers, tired of being clobbered with significant verdicts when a vaccine injury occurred, demanded protections from the government in order for them to continue the production of vaccinations. The companies feared putting vaccines on the market, because the risks they faced when an injury occurred were simply too significant.
Recognizing the need to balance the benefits of vaccines to the general public versus the need to provide compensation for those who suffered a vaccine injury, the government formed the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). The VICP is a no-fault vaccine injury compensation program. In other words, whether or not a medical provider or vaccine manufacturer made a mistake is irrelevant. The primary issues are whether a vaccine caused an injury and, if so, what sum of money should be paid to the injured individual within the limits of the VICP. These cases are filed in a court in Washington, DC called the Court of Federal Claims, and they are presided over by Special Masters who handle nothing but vaccine cases. The rules of procedure and evidence that control a vaccine injury case are not the same as what is typically taught in law school. And, they are not the same as those that apply to a typical personal injury claim. Not knowing and working under these special rules on a daily basis can be very detrimental to a vaccine-injured claimant.
Complicated Medical and Scientific Causation Models
As with any routine personal injury case, in a vaccine injury case, the vaccine-injured individual (the petitioner) must prove causation. In other words, the injured party must demonstrate that the alleged injury was actually the result of the vaccine. Simply showing an injury occurred after a vaccination was administered is not enough. There must be medical or scientific proof linking the alleged injury to the vaccination.
In vaccine cases, the required burden of proof can be difficult to meet. These cases are defended by an extremely skilled group of lawyers who are employed by the Department of Justice. Those lawyers, a part of the Department of Justice’s Vaccine Injury Division, typically focus 100% of their time defending against vaccine injury claims. As such, they are very knowledgeable about arguing that alleged vaccine injuries were not actually caused by a vaccination but were, instead, the result of a pre-existing condition, some alternate cause, or simply an unknown cause.
A large number of vaccine injury cases require the testimony of highly qualified medical and scientific experts who can sort through an injured individual’s pre-existing conditions and other possible causes of an injury, and then link the injury to the vaccine by and through a medically and scientifically logical sequence of cause and effect. Vaccine injury cases can routinely require the testimony of neurologists, rheumatologists, immunologists, and many other highly specialized medical and scientific professionals. Having an experienced vaccine injury attorney on your side can make the difference between success or failure.
Costs of Vaccine Injury Cases
Like any personal injury case, vaccine injury cases can be very costly to pursue. Given the highly specialized medical and scientific issues presented by many vaccine injury cases, those cases can become extremely expensive. Many of these highly specialized medical and scientific experts can charge as much as $500 per hour for review of medical records and for offering testimony on behalf of a vaccine-injured petitioner. In cases involving multiple experts, the costs can very quickly rise into the tens of thousands of dollars. In fact, for some vaccine-injury cases, simply obtaining an opinion as to whether the case could be pursued in good faith can cost thousands of dollars. Few lawyers who work under this system want to risk walking away with nothing in what they think is an unsure VICP claim.
Choose Your Lawyer Correctly
Fortunately, there are dedicated lawyers ready to fight for justice and win vaccine injury claims.
Be sure that the lawyer you choose has experience handling vaccine injury claims, because choosing the right lawyer is the beginning of a solid foundation for a successful outcome.