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Can you Sue for a Vaccine Injury?

Vaccine Shot from nurse

Vaccines are widely used across the United States to prevent the spread of certain diseases. Although most people who get vaccinated don’t experience any adverse reactions, a small percentage of individuals have a severe or allergic reaction that can cause serious injury. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help vaccine injury victims receive compensation for their damages suffered.

Types of Vaccine Injuries

All vaccines have some type of side effects from which some serious injuries or even death can result. Historically, the courts have favored victims in these cases ruling that a mistake of the pharmacy or the drug manufacturer at fault for causing the vaccine-related injuries. Below are a few examples of different types of vaccine injuries that have been observed to occur after administration:

  • Unlisted or unexpected side effects
  • Shoulder injuries related to vaccine administration (SIRVA)
  • Pneumonia or other serious infections
  • Vasovagal Syncope (also known as fainting)
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelination Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Adverse interactions caused by the vaccine
  • Transverse Myelitis (TM)
  • Seizures or loss of bodily control
  • Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
  • Death

Can You Sue for Vaccine Injury?

vaccine manufacturer belt with vials

Vaccine drug makers cannot be directly sued in civil personal injury cases over vaccine injuries. In most cases where a flaw or defect in a pharmaceutical product causes harm, the victim is able to directly sue the company that makes the drug, but with vaccines, this process is different for vaccine-caused injuries because of the legislation passed.

Drugmakers paid out millions during the 1970s and 80s in vaccine injury lawsuits with long, drawn-out litigation due to the difficulty in proving cause and effect in vaccine injury cases. This caused multiple manufacturers to stop producing vaccines altogether, bringing alarm that the supply of vaccines would be threatened if manufacturers were left with open-ended liability for the injuries caused by their vaccine products.

National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 was passed as a result and created the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) which provided healthcare providers and vaccine manufacturers protection from civil suits over personal injuries and wrongful deaths from vaccines. The program is funded by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund which is managed by the Department of the Treasury and built up through taxes applied to vaccines.

This legislature provides a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for those who were injured by certain vaccines to recover compensation from the government rather than from the pharmacy or drug manufacturer themselves.

The program operates on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis for the vaccine, with victims who have received expected injuries within the expected time window after receiving a vaccine being presumed to have received the injuries from the vaccine.

The main goals of the VICP are to:

  1. Discourage lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers so that companies can focus more on developing vaccines;
  2. Stabilize the cost of vaccines so that there is a steady supply of medications;
  3. and to provide victims of vaccine injury and their families with an efficient means of recovering compensation for the injuries they have sustained as a result of receiving the vaccine.

The VICP makes it easy for those with injuries to file a claim, often paying for the claimant’s legal fees even if no compensation is awarded.

Types of Vaccines Covered in the VICP

Only vaccines covered by the VICP are eligible for victim compensation recovery. These are the types of vaccines covered by the VICP and some of the injuries that they can cause (if the data is available):

  • Band aid after Vaccine ShotDiptheria vaccines. 
  • Haemophilus Influenza Type B vaccines. Shoulder-related injuries and Vasovagal Syncope.
  • Hepatitis A vaccines. These vaccines mostly cause Vasovagal Syncope and shoulder-related injuries.
  • Hepatitis B vaccines. Vasovagal Syncope, Anaphylaxis, and shoulder-related injuries.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. Anaphylaxis, Vasovagal Syncope, and shoulder-related injuries.
  • Seasonal Influenza (Flu) vaccines. Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), Anaphylaxis, shoulder-related injuries, and Vasovagal Syncope.
  • Measles vaccines. Vasovagal Syncope, Anaphylaxis, Encephalitis, Encephalopathy, Thrombocytopenic Purpura, and Vaccine-Strain Measles infection.
  • Mumps vaccines. Encephalopathy, Vasovagal Syncope, Anaphylaxis, and Encephalitis.
  • Meningococcal vaccines. Shoulder-related injuries, Anaphylaxis, and Vasovagal Syncope.
  • Pertussis vaccines. These types of vaccines can cause Anaphylaxis, Encephalopathy, Encephalitis, shoulder-related injuries, and Vasovagal syncope.
  • Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccines. Vasovagal Syncope and shoulder-related injuries.
  • Polio vaccines. Paralytic Polio in the live virus vaccine, Anaphylaxis, shoulder-related injuries, and Vasovagal Syncope in the inactivated virus vaccine.
  • Rotavirus vaccines. These types of vaccines can cause Intussusception.
  • Rubella vaccines. Anaphylaxis, Vasovagal Syncope, Encephalitis, Encephalopathy, chronic arthritis.
  • Tetanus vaccines. Tetanus vaccines have been shown to rarely cause Anaphylaxis, Brachial Neuritis, shoulder-related injuries, and Vasovagal syncope.
  • Varicella vaccines. Disseminated Varicella vaccine strain, shoulder-related injuries, Anaphylaxis, and Vasovagal Syncope.
  • Coronavirus vaccines. These vaccines are not yet covered by the VICP, but they are expected to be included at some point in 2021.

Note: not all of the subtypes of these vaccines are covered as part of the VICP.

Eligibility for Filing a Petition with the VICP

To be eligible for filing a petition for compensation with the VICP, the following three conditions must be met.

  1. The injury directly resulted from the administration of a VICP-covered vaccine.
  2. The injury occurred within a reasonable period of time after receiving the vaccine.
  3. The injury lasted for an extended period of time (6+ months), or required hospitalization, surgical intervention, or caused a fatal reaction.

Victims who received injuries from non-covered vaccines may still be able to receive compensation for their injuries if they can show that the vaccine is in fact what caused the injuries.

Vaccine Injury Statistics

Since its implementation in 1988, the program has helped over 6,100 injured people recover close to $4 billion in compensation from vaccine manufacturers and healthcare providers.

Adverse reactions to vaccines across the country are tracked as part of a program called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This program was designed to detect new or unusual vaccine reactions, identify potential risk factors related to health predispositions, analyze the safety of newly released vaccines, watch for unusual patterns of adverse reactions, monitor changes in side effect occurrence rates, and to serve as a monitoring system in public health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

From the data collected by this program and other sources, we understand that:

  • Of the billions of vaccine doses administered, there are around two claims of injury for every one million vaccinations given in the United States.
  • Close to 33% of claimants who file for a petition through the VICP receive compensation for their injury claims.
  • Over 90% of VICP injury claims involve non-fatal injuries. On the other hand, this means that nearly 10% of VICP claims included fatal injuries.
  • Seasonal Influenza claims are the most common type filed with nearly 25% of all of the over 20,000 VICP claims made being related to this type of vaccine.
  • According to VICP claims, close to 200 fatalities have occurred as a result of seasonal flu vaccines.
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis claims involve the highest rate of fatal injuries with nearly 700 fatal injury claims being made about these types of vaccines.
  • The volume of vaccine claims being made to the VICP has increased each year since 2011.
  • Thousands of claims for injuries caused by “unspecified” types of vaccines have been filed, but less than 10 alleged victims have been granted compensation for this category.

Contact a Vaccine Injury Lawyer Today

If you or a family member have been injured by an adverse reaction that may have been caused by a vaccine, then you should contact an experienced vaccine injury lawyer to figure out if you have a valid claim. Heidari Law Group has years of experience fighting for victims in a variety of different types of personal injury claims and is ready to take on your case. Get in touch with a vaccine injury attorney today for a free evaluation.

Sam Heidari

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Sam Heidari

Sam Ryan Heidari

Sam Heidari is the founding principal of Heidari Law Group, a law firm specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, and employment law with offices in California and Nevada. Sam Heidari has been practicing law for over 11 years and handles a wide range of cases including car accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination, and product liability. The Heidari Law Group legal firm is known for its comprehensive approach, handling cases from initial consultation through to final judgment. Sam Heidari is dedicated to community involvement and advocacy for civil liberties.

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