Vaccine Injury Fund: Lessons from a Lawyer-Money Awards and Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

Slip and Fall Premises LiabilityThis entry is part of my Lessons from a Lawyer series, which is aimed at providing basic information about vaccines, injuries and the Vaccine Court.

This post is regarding compensation (receiving a monetary award from the court or HHS) and paying your attorney, experts and filing fees for the lawsuit.

First, the court is designed to compensate victims of vaccine injury up to $250,000.00, which is the maximum amount for pain and suffering one can receive.  The Court also pays for future life-care for those permanently, or more severely, injured.  That amount is not capped.  For this reason, some awards, especially those for young children, can be well into the several million dollar range.

For example, a 10 year old child who received a vaccine and developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) with permanent paralysis, may receive $100,000.00 per year for the rest of his life.  That amount would be negotiated between the injured person’s lawyer and the Department of Justice Attorney representing HHS (Health and Human Services).  If a 10 year old’s life-expectancy could be projected to be 75 years old, then the $100,000.00 per year for 65 years would equal $6,500,000.00.

These multi-million dollar awards do exist and are necessary for the permanently injured Petitioner.

You may wonder how much the lawyer receives.  In a typical personal injury or medical malpractice matter, the attorney takes 1/3 of the amount as their fee.  However, when the Legislature enacted the law and set up the program and the court, they designed it so that the injured person would not have to deduct a portion of the money they sorely needed in order to pay their attorney.

For that reason, the United States government reimburses all attorneys’ fees.  The injured party never pays one dime to their lawyer.  Further, the lawyer does not receive a windfall, such as 1/3 of $6.5 million dollars.  Rather, the attorney submits the number of hours worked and her hourly rate to the Court and the attorneys and court work it out.

Likewise, the Petitioner gets back the amount of money spent on filing fees and experts necessary to prosecute the claim.  The only time these costs could be denied is if the court determines that there was no reasonable basis to file the claim to begin with (but that’s for another post).  Also, these costs are usually laid out by the attorney anyway.

Therefore, as long as there is reasonable basis to believe there is a valid claim, an injured person has the ability to Petition the Vaccine Court.  Typically, that person never pays anything and could recover an amount of money for pain and suffering and/or  to assist them in their future everyday care.

With regard to filing a vaccine injury claim from your state, you can file in Washington D.C. from any state, since it is a Federal program.  Usually the cases are settled or dismissed without you ever having to physically appear in a court.  The conferences with the Special Masters are telephonic (on the phone) and unless their is a Hearing (like a trial), there would not usually be a reason to take live testimony from you or other witnesses/experts in the case.  Almost all of the litigation is filed electronically and handled telephonically.

These cases can be complicated depending on the medical condition(s) and other variables.  For this reason, you should consult a vaccine injury attorney to help you determine if you or a loved one has a claim.  Be aware that there is a strict three (3) year statute of limitations within which you must file your Petition or be forever barred from doing so.  The statute of limitations for a death due to vaccine injury is two (2) years from the date of death.

If you have any questions, feel free to call Widman Law Firm, Vaccine Injury Attorney, for a free phone consultation. (609) 848-5692.

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