Vaccine injury cases are very challenging. Here are three things you can do to give you a head start on your case.
1. Don’t Wait
Like most legal cases, you have to file a vaccine claim within a certain period of time or you lose your right to file forever. You may have heard lawyers talk about a limitations period or the statute of limitations. This is the deadline to file. Because the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) is a federal program your state statutes of limitations for things like personal injury or medical malpractice don’t apply.
In the NVICP, for a vaccine injury claim, you MUST file a claim within three (3) years of the onset of symptoms. For death cases, where the death resulted from a vaccine injury, the claim must be filed within two (2) years of the death AND not more than four (4) years from the onset of the vaccine injury.
For a vaccine injury the onset of symptoms – not diagnosis, not a doctor telling you have a vaccine injury, not you learning about the program – the onset of symptoms starts the clock running. It’s not going to matter that no one ever told you about the NVICP. Your clock is running the moment you experience the first symptom. This applies to both children and adults. Significantly, there is no tolling for minority in vaccine cases. Tolling for minority means, in many state jurisdictions, the limitations period clock doesn’t start to run for a minor until that child turns 18. That does not apply in the Vaccine Program. The onset of symptoms starts the clock even for children.
So, if you think you or your child has been injured by a vaccine – don’t wait. Contact a vaccine injury lawyer immediately.
2. Pain Log & Receipts
The next thing to do is start keeping a pain log – essentially a daily or weekly calendar – detailing how the injury is affecting your or your child’s activities of daily living (ADLs) or your everyday life. Does it wake you up every night? Do you have trouble getting dressed? Did you have to stop or modify your work? Did you have to stop your favorite hobbies or sports? Note everything. Be sure to include a pain scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most severe pain. Log how you feel when you wake up, when you’ve worked a full day, and when you do different activities. This log will be very helpful in calculating pain and suffering demands.
In addition, keep track of all of your unreimbursable out of pocket medical expenses (for example co-pays, prescription costs etc), as well as any other purchases directly related to the vaccine injury, such as paying for Ubers/cabs because you can’t drive or building a wheelchair ramp into your house. Unlike in some civil litigation where demands can be general numbers, we must document every single expense. Starting early and keeping things organized is the key to maximizing your award.
3. Prepare a List of Medical Providers
The Vaccine Court requires you to fill out, sign and file a questionnaire that is basically a complete list of all medical providers from three years prior to your vaccine injury to the present. This includes doctors that have nothing to do with your vaccine injury. The Court also requires your lawyer – not you – get the records. We use this questionnaire to collect medical records. If you’re the parent of a vaccine injured child and that child is below the age of 10, you’ll need to get all records including prenatal, labor and delivery records, and neonatal. If the child is a teenager, you can just go three years back from the date of injury. For adults, it’s three years prior to the injury. You will need to list all providers (including if you’ve moved cities or states in that time period), their addresses and the approximate dates of treatment (when you started and when you stopped seeing them or if it’s ongoing). Failing to provide a complete medical record is one of the main causes of delays in vaccine cases. So be as complete as you can be in this list. We know there will be some you just can’t remember – but do the best you can and be as thorough as you can.
Vaccine injury cases are quite difficult and take a long time. Doing these three things can help protect your rights to file a claim, maximize your compensation and keep your claim moving.
For more information contact The Law Office of Renée J. Gentry, Esq.