Recently the United States Federal Government has set up a vaccine court and fund to assist with the claims management of issues arising from vaccines to reduce the number of lawsuits against drug companies. The US Court of Federal Claims, commonly called the Vaccine Court, was established to help with resolving claims outside the traditional United States tort system. The program was established in 1986, after high-profile lawsuits were made against drug companies. Several children had serious, adverse reactions – including seizures and brain damage – that appeared to be linked to the diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus vaccine or DPT vaccine (this version was later replaced by the DTaP Vaccine). The parents sued the makers of the DTP vaccine and, in at least 2 cases, were awarded millions of dollars.
The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 created a unique mechanism for compensating persons injured by certain pharmaceutical products. The act established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program as an alternative to traditional product liability and medical malpractice litigation for persons injured by vaccinations. These include their receipt of one or more standard childhood vaccines. According to the courts website over the last 21 years, the fund has provided compensation to 2319 people, paid via this fund, and more than $1.8 billion combined has been paid out since the program’s inception in 1988.
To qualify, eligible claimants can recover compensation for vaccine injury – related medical and rehabilitative expenses, for pain-and-suffering, and lost earnings. Of significance, claimants may also recover “reasonable” attorney’s fees and costs, and the program also permits attorney fee awards to be made when a claim is otherwise denied, as long as the claim had a reasonable basis and was pursued in good faith.
Vaccines covered under the program include those that protect against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), polio, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox), Hemophilus influenzae type b, rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate, trivalent influenza (seasonal flu), meningococcal and human papillomavirus.
The benefit of this program is that patients need not prove fault. The typical requirement in a tort case is to prove the person suffering injury or death must prove a medical causation or linkage to the event. However, in a vaccination case, this causal relationship has been lessened to allow claimants to merely determine whether it could be reasonably presumed that the injuries suffered could be related to the vaccine absent a more plausible explanation. Therefore, these claims can be brought with sufficient evidence of the vaccination. And coupled with information such as an expert opinion providing evidence for a reasonable presumption, these claims can be highly beneficial for an injured person suffering from the after-effects of a vaccination gone awry.