On October 15, 2020, Partner Susan Cremer attended the 31st Annual Judicial Conference of the United States Court of Federal Claims (“USCFC”). Susan handles vaccine claims for clients who have suffered serious adverse vaccine reactions. Susan also represents the families of those who have died as a result of a vaccine reaction.
About the Conference
The 31st Annual Judicial Conference covered recent developments in the Vaccine Court. Many injured claimants do not know that the Vaccine Court has a well-developed electronic filing system. This means that the Vaccine Court has continued operating during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of the Court staff, special masters, and lawyers are working remotely at this time to move cases forward. Attorneys and special masters often use phone conferences and virtual hearings to substitute for in-person meetings.
The Chief Special Master of the Vaccine Court reported that the annual number of new vaccine cases filed has remained in the range of 1120-1243 for the past five (5) years. Vaccine attorneys filed approximately 1186 new cases in 2020. Additionally, in 2020, the Vaccine Court has issued 691 court decisions adopting settlement agreements. The Court has issued approximately 354 rulings granting entitlement to compensation in cases.
Average Vaccine Compensation in 2020
The median compensation amounts for 2020 have ranged from approximately $52,000 to $450,000. Vaccine compensation goes to the injured claimants, as attorney’s fees and costs are paid separately.
Common Vaccine Injuries in 2020
One of the most common injuries compensated in 2020 is the Shoulder Injury Related to Vaccine Administration (“SIRVA”). Many doctors believe the inadvertent administration of the vaccine into the bursa of the shoulder joint instead of into the deltoid muscle of the upper arm causes SIRVA. Most claimants have near total recovery from pain and arm weakness after 6 months. As of September 30, 2020, approximately 1,743 claimants with SIRVA received compensation, with a median award amount of approximately $81,000.00.
The next most common adverse reaction in 2020 is Guillain Barre Syndrome (“GBS”). GBS is an inflammatory condition which affects peripheral nerves. Most vaccines do not cause GBS. However, some individuals may develop an immune-mediated type adverse reaction within 2-14 days after receiving a vaccine, which affects the peripheral nerves. While most people with GBS have near total recovery, injured claimants usually experience tingling of the fingers and toes and even some residual muscle weakness. As of September 30, 2020, approximately 423 claimants received compensation under the 2020 program in cases where the claimed injury was GBS. The median compensation amount for GBS was approximately $162,000.00.
Time Considerations and Damages
Most cases still take more than one year. However, proposed legislation increases the number of Special Masters, which could speed up the process. Additionally, the Vaccine Court is developing a pilot project to allow live video streaming of some court proceedings on YouTube.
Congress passed the Vaccine Act on October 1, 1988. The Vaccine Program as a no-fault compensation program for those injured or killed as a result of receiving certain childhood vaccines. The Program has a separate court and filing system, and not all attorneys are able to practice in the Vaccine Court.
Congress enacted a cap on pain and suffering damages in the Vaccine Program of $250,000. However, claimants may also seek reimbursement for out of pocket medical expenses and documented lost wages. For more information on the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, click here.
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Susan Cremer has represented vaccine claimants for many years. In addition to practicing in Georgia courts, Susan practices in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Susan also serves the US Court of Federal Claims Bar Association, the Vaccine Injured Petitioners (VIP) Bar Association, and the Vaccine Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice.