The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or “VICP”, provides compensation for persons who have been injured by various childhood vaccines. The program went into effect in the fall of 1988. The VICP allows eligible applicants to file their vaccine injury claims through a streamlined process, whereby they receive compensation through a Vaccine Recovery Fund. The fund is supported by small taxes on vaccines.
These claims are filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters. Most people hire attorneys to file these petitions for them.
Individuals must apply for this federal compensation before they are free to file claims against vaccine manufacturers in civil court.
What Types of Vaccines Does VICP Cover?
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program mostly covers injuries resulting from childhood vaccinations. The list of vaccines may be subject to change as new vaccines are created. But at the moment, these include:
- Haemophilus Influenza Type B;
- Hepatitis A and B;
- Varicella (Chicken Pox);
- Measles and Mumps (MMR);
- Rubella (MMR);
- Pneumococcal disease (PCV);
- Meningococcal disease;
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV);
- Diptheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTP or DPT); and
Who is Eligible for Compensation Through the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program?
The following persons can file a VICP claim:
- People who believe they may have been injured by one of the listed vaccines;
- Parents or legal guardians of the person injured; and/or
- The estate representative of a person who died due to a vaccine injury.
These persons must provide proof that the injury was caused by one of the vaccines covered under VICP. Proof may be the hardest part to establish, as it requires extensive medical records that can explain how the vaccine caused the injury. Out of the 3.1 billion vaccines administered in 10 years, around 5,500 petitions were filed and 3,800 of them were compensated. This means that for every million vaccine injury compensation claims, only one results in compensation.
In addition, there is a table of injuries provided in the VICP. The applicant will have a greater chance of obtaining compensation if their injury is listed in this table. If it isn’t, they may need to provide evidence of the extent of their injury. Applicants can also recover for pre-existing conditions that were “aggravated” or made worse by a vaccine.
Lastly, the injury needs to have lasted for a minimum of 6 months after the vaccine was administered. The injury must have resulted in a stay in the hospital and surgery, or resulted in the person’s death.
What is the Claims Process?
An individual who believes they have a claim must file it with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. They will need to submit their petition, along with medical records and other documentation. An attorney can help with this.
Once the claim is filed, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is named the respondent in the case (the one who files the claim is the petitioner). First, the HHS will review the case to determine whether compensation is merited. They make a recommendation based on their findings.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) then submits a report that includes the findings to the court. A DOJ attorney will present the respondent’s side of the case before a “Special Master,” who decides what compensation will be awarded to the petitioner (often, after a hearing is held with both sides having an opportunity to present their case). Usually, as long as a claim is compensable, and often even if it is not, attorney and legal fees will be awarded. Other types of losses may be covered, as well.
Once the petitioner has filed with the VICP, and are unsatisfied with the result (or withdraw their petition by legal deadlines), they may file a suit against the vaccine manufacturer in civil court. The Special Master’s decision may be appealed.
What Types of Losses are Covered by the VICP?
Under the VICP, injured persons may be reimbursed for:
- Past/future medical and rehabilitative care;
- Pain and suffering costs, up to$250,00;
- Lost wages or earnings; and
- Attorney’s fees and court costs, up to a “reasonable” amount (as mentioned above).
For representatives of deceased victims, they can recover up to $250,000 as a death benefit, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me File a VICP Claim?
To file a claim under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, you’ll need to file a legal petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Most persons hire a lawyer for help when filing a VICP claim, since it involves a great deal of paperwork and many legal forms. VICP claims usually cover attorney’s fees.
It’s in your best interests to hire a qualified, experienced personal injury lawyer in your area to assist you throughout the process. If you have a non-VICP claim, you may be able to pursue a private civil lawsuit against a doctor or manufacturer.