The U.S. government established the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in 1988 to provide compensation to a person that suffers a rare but serious vaccine adverse reaction. To be eligible for compensation, the injured party must file a vaccine injury claim in the centralized vaccine court in Washington, D.C.
A petitioner can file a vaccine injury claim on their own behalf, or a vaccine injury lawyer can file the claim at no additional cost. A vaccine attorney understands the ins and outs of the compensation process and guides the petitioner over any potential hurdles that may arise.
When a vaccine injury claim is filed, a copy of the petition goes to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a special master of the Court of Federal Claims.
The HHS is represented by lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ), who review the legal aspects of the claim. The DOJ attorneys analyze medical records, assert legal arguments and determine whether or not the petitioner is entitled to compensation. The DOJ’s decision is submitted in a Rule 4 report –a straight forward statement of respondent’s analysis of the petitioner’s claim.
The special master reviews the evidence and settles the claim. In some cases, the petitioner may be asked to provide additional medical records or documentations after the claim is filed.
If the HHS contests the Rule 4 report, both sides may need to file expert reports, which can include evidence from medical or scientific literature. Once these reports are reviewed, an entitlement hearing is scheduled. At the hearing, both sides will present their evidence along with expert witness testimony. The special master will review the evidence and determine whether vaccine injury compensation should be awarded.
If compensation is awarded, both sides will engage in an informal process to determine the amount of compensation and how it will be awarded.
David Carney joined Philadelphia, PA firm, Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley, P.C. in September 2010. He focuses his practice in medical malpractice, products liability, premises liability, motor vehicle accidents, dram shop, vaccine injury compensation, mass torts, class actions, asbestos and mesothelioma and other personal injury matters.