In the early stages of the vaccine(s) rollout, we’ve been fortunate to only see a relative handful of serious, negative reactions among patients receiving the shot. These have primarily been unusually severe allergic reactions, resulting in some form of anaphylactic shock. To my knowledge, nobody has died as a result of these unfortunate side effects and most patients have recovered quickly. But with literally hundreds of millions of people in line for vaccinations in the United States alone, medical authorities are cautioning the public that more such events are likely as we’ve seen when any new form of medicine goes into wide use.
If you or a family member are regrettably among the group of people who wind up suffering harm from the vaccination, you might be tempted to contact an attorney and sue for damages. But it turns out that such an effort won’t be nearly as easy or profitable as you might imagine. Due to an obscure law covering the emergency authorization for the use of a new vaccine, a “special court” would wind up hearing your case. And that court’s record in terms of how many people win their case and the average monetary awards given to those few who do is skimpy at best. (Associated Press)
Lost in the U.S. launch of the coronavirus vaccine is a fact most don’t know when they roll up their sleeves: In rare cases of serious illness from the shots, the injured are blocked from suing and steered instead to an obscure federal bureaucracy with a record of seldom paying claims.
Housed in a nondescript building in a Washington, D.C., suburb, the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program has just four employees and few hallmarks of an ordinary court. Decisions are made in secret by government officials, claimants can’t appeal to a judge and payments in most death cases are capped at $370,376.
George Washington University law professor Peter Meyers has followed the program for years and bluntly calls it a “black hole,” obtaining federal documents this summer showing it has paid fewer than 1 in 10 claims in its 15-year history.
The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is where any lawsuit stemming from an injury suffered following a vaccination given emergency authorization by the CDC will immediately be directed. Whether you win or lose, your case can not be appealed to any higher court and their decision is final. This program was established under a 2005 law specifically designed to encourage pharmaceutical companies to be able to rapidly develop and deploy vaccines during a national health crisis without fear of being taken down by crippling lawsuits. Of the 499 people who have had their cases heard by the CICP since its inception (almost all involving H1N1 swine flu vaccinations), only 29 have prevailed and received monetary damages. Those awards averaged $200,000 per claim.
Further, the rules of the court make a profitable outcome even more unlikely. The court will not cover attorneys’ costs or other expenses such as payments to expert witnesses during the hearing. Those costs will all come out of the plaintiff’s pocket. As noted in the excerpt above, the absolute maximum payment you can receive is the somewhat odd figure of $370,376, and almost nobody wins the full amount. Oh, and there’s a one year limit to the time between when the vaccination is given and when you file your claim. So if your reaction is significantly delayed, you won’t even be able to file a claim in some cases.
On top of all that, even if you do decide to file such a claim after an adverse reaction, you may be waiting quite a while before any action is taken. The CICP currently has a grand total of four full-time employees and a limited budget. They may be able to expand a bit if the number of claims from these new vaccines starts to skyrocket, but people are being warned that it may take several years for your case to be heard.
From the sound of it, I’m not sure it’s really worth bothering with trying to go to court if someone has a severe reaction. You could easily end up spending most of any eventual settlement on legal fees and if your claim is denied, you may well be very far in debt to your attorney. The only way to get around the CICP is if you can demonstrate “willful negligence” on the part of the manufacturer of the vaccine. But considering how hard the government has been cracking the whip and pushing these companies to get a working vaccine out to the public, that will likely be impossible to prove.