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Vaccine Injuries

Phyllis Widman handles vaccine injury cases and is one of only a few attorneys in the State of New Jersey admitted to practice in the United States Court of Federal Claims, where vaccine injury claims are filed. The Vaccine Injury portion of Widman Law Firm is a national practice, since the claims are filed in Federal Court. Therefore, Ms. Widman can handle claims from any State in the Country.

While it is well-known that vaccines have eradicated devastating illnesses and diseases in our country, it does not discount the injuries that are occasionally caused by receiving the vaccines. Millions of people of all ages are advised to get vaccinated from birth into late adulthood. Most babies receive the Hepatitis B shot within hours of birth, which begins the schedule of many subsequent vaccinations recommended by the CDC within the first few years of life. Likewise, from ages six months into late adulthood, the public is encouraged to receive the flu vaccine every year.

Unfortunately, in some instances, the recommended vaccines cause injuries. This is well-known and well-documented by the Government who monitors the number of vaccine injuries, as well as the types of injuries caused by each named vaccine.  In response to injuries caused by vaccines, Congress enacted the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 which created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP), beginning on October 1, 1988. Initially, the law was enacted to compensate and assist babies who were injured by the DTP vaccine. However, over the years, the VICP has expanded to include several additional, specific vaccines and injuries for children and adults.

Due to the number of vaccine injuries, a specific Federal Court was granted jurisdiction over vaccine injury cases. All vaccine injury claims must be filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims (within the “Vaccine Court”) located in Washington DC.; although, you may not be obligated to appear in Washington, DC. Instead, some hearings may be held in the Federal Court in your local district, or the Court may allow you to appear via teleconferencing.

A claim in Vaccine Court is not a traditional lawsuit. Rather, it is based on a no-fault system of compensation. However, if your claim is denied in Vaccine Court, or if you do not agree with the award in Vaccine Court, you may be able to file a traditional lawsuit in a trial court after you resolved your claim in Vaccine Court.

The Vaccine Court is designed to compensate and assist vaccine injured people. For that reason, the Court pays all attorneys fees and costs on behalf of the claimants. This is unlike the traditional civil court attorney compensation structure that usually allows for attorneys to accept 1/3 of the award to pay their fees. In Vaccine Court whatever you recover, whether by settling or trying and winning your case, is compensation and assistance that goes solely to you or your child. You also do not pay your attorney if your claim is denied.

Anyone can file a claim on their behalf, or on their child’s behalf, in the Vaccine Court.

You do not have to be a U.S. citizen.

You are also eligible to file in Vaccine Court if you received the injurious vaccine outside of the U.S. In those cases, you must show that you were a U.S. citizen in the military or a U.S. government employee; or if you received a vaccine manufactured by a company located in the U.S. and you returned to the U.S. within six (6) months after the vaccination.

Vaccine Injury cases involve medical and legal nuances that would be more easily handled by a vaccine injury attorney. In order to be eligible to file a claim, you must show with medical documentation that:
1. You received the vaccination that you claim caused your injury, and
2. The effects of your injury have lasted; either for more than six (6) months after you received the vaccine, OR resulted in a hospital stay and surgery, OR resulted in death.

There is a strict statute of limitations that applies to Vaccine Injury Claims. In order to be eligible to file a claim, you must do so within three (3) years from the date of first onset of your injuries, or two (2) years from the date of death, if a death occurred as a result of a Vaccine.

Phyllis Widman is admitted to practice in the United States Court of Federal Claims to litigate matters in the Vaccine Court. Since the claims are filed in Federal Court, Ms. Widman can handle claims from any State in the Country.

No matter what State you live in, if you or a loved one was injured by a vaccine, call Widman Law Firm. The consultation is free and for a claim filed in Vaccine Court, you will never pay attorney’s fees, whether you lose, settle or win at trial. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What are the injuries that are covered in vaccine court?

For the Vaccine Injury Table which lists the injuries published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, click here. However, not all of the injuries are listed on the Vaccine Table. This section describes those listed on the Table and some of the “off-Table” injuries/conditions that arise as a result of receiving particular Vaccines.

  • Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock
  • Brachial Neuritis/Brachial Neuropathy/ Parsonage Turner
  • Syndrome
  • Encephalopathy (or encephalitis)
  • Chronic arthritis
  • Paralysis
  • Coma
  • Thrombocytopenic purpura
  • Vaccine-Strain Measles Viral Infection in an immunodeficient
  • recipient
  • Paralytic Polio
  • Vaccine-Strain Polio Viral Infection
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (“GBS”)
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Brain Damage
  • Pain and stiffness of the joints
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Appendicitis
  • Deafness
  • Shoulder injuries; such as, bursitis, adhesive capsulitis, tendinitis and rotator cuff tear
  • Pneumonia
  • Stroke
  • Venous thromboembolism (“VTE”) Death
  • Intussusception (bowel blockage that sometimes necessitates surgery)
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (“ADEM”)
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (“CIDP”)/GBS

What types of vaccines are covered in vaccine court?

If you are unaware of which vaccines you or your child received, you can call your doctor’s office and request your, or your child’s, complete medical records at any time.  It is your right to obtain your medical records for any reason or simply for your personal file. 

The following list of covered vaccines is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The vaccines listed below are taken from the Vaccine Table that can be obtained from their website. Keep in mind that other requirements must be met in order to collect from the Vaccine Injury Fund.  Having received one of the listed vaccines is one element in proving your case.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines (such as Gardasil® and Cervarix®, which caused more than 60 deaths since 2006)

Vaccines containing tetanus toxoid (e.g., DTaP, DTP, DT, Td, or TT)

Vaccines containing whole cell pertussis bacteria, extracted or partial cell pertussis bacteria, or specific pertussis antigen(s) (e.g., DTP, DTaP, P, DTP-Hib)

Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine or any of its components (e.g., MMR, MR, M, R)

Vaccines containing rubella virus (e.g., MMR, MR, R)                      

Vaccines containing measles virus (e.g., MMR, MR, M)

Vaccines containing polio live virus (OPV)

Vaccines containing polio inactivated virus (e.g., IPV)

Hepatitis B. vaccines

Hemophilus influenzae type b polysaccharide conjugate vaccines

Varicella vaccine

Rotavirus vaccine

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines

Hepatitis A vaccines

Trivalent influenza vaccines

Meningococcal vaccines

Any new vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine administration to children, after publication by the Secretary of a notice of coverage. (Now includes all vaccines against seasonal influenza (except trivalent influenza vaccines, which are already covered), effective November 12, 2013)

The vaccine injury table published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

**Note that there are some injuries or conditions that are not specifically listed on the Vaccine Injury Table (“off-Table” injuries). Some off-Table injuries or conditions are still considered valid injuries for a claim in Vaccine Court, they just require more proof.

The Statute of Limitations (time bar) on filing a claim

There is a Statute of Limitations regarding the filing of your Claim. The statute provides that in order to have a valid claim, you must file your petition within three (3) years from the date of the first onset of your symptoms. If the vaccine injury resulted in death, you have two (2) years from the date of death to file the Claim. If you do not file your Claim within the proscribed period of time, you will not be able to file in the Vaccine Court.

What do I have to prove in order to receive payment for my injury?

You must prove that:

  1. You received one of the vaccines listed on the Table of injuries; AND

  2. The first symptom of the injury falls into the time period designated in the “Qualifications and Aids to Interpretation” of the Table; OR

  3. The Vaccine caused the injury; OR

  4. The Vaccine caused a pre-existing illness to become “significantly aggravated.”

You, the Petitioner, have the burden of proof. That is why obtaining the appropriate medical records is imperative to your case.

There is a “presumption” in Vaccine Court pertaining to whether the Vaccine caused your injury. “Presumption” means that the Court will presume that the Vaccine did, in fact, cause your injury if you can show that the onset of your symptoms appeared within the time frame listed on the Table and the particular injury is listed on the Table. Therefore, if you fall within the guidelines of the Table, then your injuries are presumed to have been caused by the Vaccine.

Even if your injury is not on the Table or it is listed on the Table, but did not fall into the time frame set forth on the Table, you may still be eligible to receive payment as long as you prove that the Vaccine caused the injury. Such proof may necessitate the use of an expert witness. Widman Law Firm can assist you in proving these claims.

How do I file a vaccine claim?

A petition is filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington D.C. Your case will be litigated provided your petition meets the following criteria:

  1. It is filed within the statute of limitations time frame, which is three (3) years from the date of the first onset of symptoms; or two (2) years from date of death, and

  2. You received a vaccine that is listed on the Table set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services, and

  3. Your injury is one of the listed injuries on the Table set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services. To find these relevant tables, click here.

  4. NOTE: If your injury is not one of the listed injuries on the Table or if your injury does not fall into the time frame designated on the Table, you may still have a valid claim. In those instances, you must prove, through medical evidence (such as expert witness testimony), that the Vaccine caused the injury.

Who would I be suing if I file a claim?

The responding party to your claim is The United States Department of Health and Human Services acting as Defendant, represented by Attorneys from the United States Department of Justice.

What type of award would I get if I win or settle the claim?

If you show that you were injured by a Vaccine, you may receive the following:

  1. Money for past and future non-reimbursable medical related expenses; including,

       a. Custodial care

       b. Rehabilitation costs

       c. And related expenses

  •  The amount of money awarded to you is based on your needs as a result of your injury caused by the Vaccine. Therefore, there is no limit on the amount of money you can be paid under this section; and/or

  1. Up to $250,000 for pain and suffering; and/or

  2. Lost earnings; and/or

  3. Reasonable lawyers’ fees and other legal costs if your claim was filed in good faith.

Can a vaccine claim go to trial?

Claims in the Vaccine Court can be either denied, settled or tried. If the case is tried, there is no jury. Rather, the Special Master (Special Judge) decides the case. The hearing can be conducted in a Federal Court near where you live and you may not have to physically appear depending on the circumstances. The Court is very accommodating and may allow you to appear using videoconference capabilities.

What can I do if I did not receive an award in vaccine court or I do not agree with the award?

If you do not agree with the Court’s decision in Vaccine Court, you still may be able to file a traditional civil complaint in a trial court. Different rules, procedure and law may apply to the trial court in your state or in Federal District Court than what was required in the Vaccine Court.

Phyllis Widman is a civil litigator admitted in State Court and Federal District Court and can prosecute your claim in those venues. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your case in Vaccine Court, call Widman Law Firm, LLC for a free evaluation.