How does Vaccine Court work?
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Reviewed by David J. Carney, Vaccine Awareness Center Legal Team
**How does Vaccine Court work?** The US Court of Federal Claims is the “vaccine court” that handles the vaccine injury petitions filed under The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) work together to process these eligible vaccine cases in the NVICP on the government side. In Vaccine Court there are two parties who present their cases before a decision maker. For NVICP cases, the parties are called the Petitioner (injured person) and the Respondent (the party who represents the government). There is also a decision maker in Vaccine Court who is a special master or a Chief Special Master who is similar to a “judge”. Here is how the Vaccine Court works, in general: 1. **Case is filed.** The Petitioner (claimant, or person who believes they were injured by a vaccine) files a petition with the US Court of Federal Claims. In the petition, the Petitioner provides the facts of their vaccine-injury claim. Another part of the filed case is an affidavit, where the injured person has an opportunity to submit a written testimony about their injury and how it has affected their life. 2. **Petition is reviewed & report created.** The petition and claim documents are reviewed by medical staff at HHS who make a recommendation whether the petition meets the medical criteria for compensation under the NVICP. A lawyer with the DOJ provides a legal analysis based off the medical recommendation and whether the case meets the elements of a Vaccine Case, and those two pieces from HHS and DOJ are presented in a report to the Vaccine Court. 3. **Court reviews Petition.** A special master of the Court reviews the petition and makes a decision as to whether the case is eligible for compensation and if so, in what amount. 4. **Possibility of a Hearing.** There could be a hearing scheduled if there is a question about the validity of a claim which would have the Petitioner and the Respondent go before the special master to present their sides. 5. **Decision.** The Court states whether the Petitioner is entitled to compensation and if so, in what amount. The Petitioner decides whether or not to accept the compensation, and if so the Court orders HHS to pay the amount and Petitioner’s attorneys’ fees. 6. **Settlement.** Sometimes the Petitioner and Respondent decide to reach an agreement as to how the case may be settled out of court before the Decision of the Court. This is done at times in order to avoid the time and expense of going through the Vaccine Court process. This would be a monetary settlement only and does not cover findings of fault, liability or cause of injury.