Many folks who feel they have been injured by a vaccine will want to contact a lawyer. In the old days, you might flip through a phone book to find a lawyer - any lawyer - and hope they would be able to help. Over time, lawyers have increasingly specialized their practices. Vaccine injury lawyers certainly have specialized knowledge, but when it comes to vaccine injuries, it is even more important to seek an experienced attorney.
Personal injury lawyers may handle quite a few different types of cases, such as vehicle accidents, dog bite injuries, slip and fall injuries, and even medical malpractice. Some will also handle vaccine injuries. However, most vaccine injury cases are very different.
In most personal injury cases, a lawyer must initiate a suit by filing what is known as a "complaint" with a court, often a local state court. However, if you have a SIRVA (Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration) from a seasonal flu vaccine and your lawyer files a complaint with the state court first, your case will be dismissed. That doesn't necessarily mean your case is over, but you will definitely have wasted time.
Since the mid-1980s, people who have been injured by any of a list of specific vaccines must first submit a petition to a special court, sometimes called the Vaccine Court, under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program or VICP. The VICP does a number of beneficial things for those who have been injured by vaccines.
First, the VICP provides a "no fault" process. That means, that unlike most personal injury cases, you don't have to prove that a defendant acted negligently. You just have to show that a vaccine caused an injury. Second, in some circumstances, you don't even have to prove that the vaccine caused your injury. If you had a vaccine on a specific list (called a “table injury”) and within a certain time you developed a condition on that list, the court will presume the vaccine caused your injury.
One of the most important differences, however, between a personal injury attorney and a vaccine injury lawyer is how they get paid. In personal injury cases, very often attorneys will get paid a percentage of whatever money you win (called a "contingency fee"). That means very often, before those attorneys will even take your case, they will scrutinize your case very carefully to ensure that there is a good chance of winning. A vaccine injury attorney gets paid from the same source of money that pays you, if you win your case: win or lose. That means, that, as long as there is a reasonable basis for bringing the claim, VICP attorneys will likely take your case.
Also, you cannot forget the specialized knowledge about the VICP that a vaccine injury attorney will have.
So, if you believe you have been injured by a vaccine, you should contact an attorney who is experienced with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.