Flu shot injury- file a claim?
February 18, 2015 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I have burstitis from a flu shot I got in fall 2014. Is it worth it to file a claim with the National Vaccine Injury Trust Fund?

I'm an otherwise generally healthy woman in my late 20s. I had intense pain and limited range of motion for weeks. While it improved a lot, it's been pretty constant for the past few months. I still have restricted range of motion (e.g., it's hard to pull shirts over my head). I still can't sleep on that side and I wake up in pain at night if I accidentally put too much pressure on it. When I went back to the clinic where I got the shot about 6 weeks later, my doctor wasn't too concerned but suggested that I see a physical therapist if it didn't improve. I started the process for getting a referral to a PT today.

Apparently the National Vaccine Injury Trust Fund compensates people with vaccine-related injuries and there are lawyers who specialize in this. However, I'd have to pay lawyer fees (if I decided to do it with a lawyer) plus a $400 filing fee to move forward with the process. Is it worth it to contact a lawyer about this? While I'm sure it would depend, and YANML, how much could I reasonably expect to get?
posted by quiet coyote to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Was the problem from the vaccine, or was it caused by the person injecting you causing a "case of shoulder injury related to vaccine administration, likely due to injection of the influenza vaccine into the subacromial bursa."

This injury wasn't caused by the actual vaccine, but by inserting the needle into the bursa.

Does the administering person admit to placing the needle in the wrong place? It's supposed to go into the muscle, not the bursa. There are sub-cutaneous administrations, but that's with a smaller needle, and I doubt you would have had this injury due to that.

I don't see how the Vaccine Injury fund would be responsible for a poor administration of the vaccine. You may be able to make a claim against the person administering the vaccination, through malpractice insurance. Can you get a second opinion from another medical professional attesting to the incorrect administration of the vaccine?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 AM on February 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I have not talked to the administering person. I get healthcare from a campus clinic and I don't have options for a second opinion without paying to go elsewhere. Also, the lawyer's link makes me think that the fund covers burstitis. Even if this is a malpractice case, it's not clear to me that it's worth pursuing given the level of severity.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:46 AM on February 18, 2015

Best answer: This law firm's website has good information, including about how they get paid (lawyers' fees are covered if you prevail, so you don't have to pay out of pocket) and what some previous awards have been for various kinds of injuries. Law firms of this sort will generally offer a free consultation, often by phone, where they'll talk you through the process, the costs, and whether it's worth pursuing. You need to get legal advice for this.
posted by katemonster at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2015

Response by poster: I just contacted that law firm for a consultation, thank you. That page answered most of my questions, including that awards have been paid for similar-sounding conditions.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2015

A couple thoughts to add to the pool, from conflicting (but convergent) points of view:

I'm an epidemiologist, specifically trained in vaccine-related issues. It's difficult to sue a provider for injuries related to the mechanism of its delivery unless the injury itself is very severe (and some offices have you sign a waiver to say something along these lines--including that you are self-reporting no relevant allergies, have read the product insert and are aware of potential adverse effects). I can't advise you on whether seeking financial recompense is a good idea (although, see below for a reason it might not be), but what I can suggest you do is to report this to VAERS. Adverse event reporting is key to making sure standards of practice recognize the possibility and frequency of injury, and those reports are taken seriously through VAERS.

I'm also a person who in 2012 got my own vaccine-needle mediated bursitis and subsequent tendon pain. I ended up starting PT four months after the problem started (so ugh I totally empathize with you right now) and that helped immensely. I did two weeks of three weekly sessions followed by six weeks of weekly sessions. Each visit had a $30 insurance copay. That sums to less than the filing fee, so I opted not to pursue anything that would undeniably have cost more and had negligible, if any, impact on practice. I did learn, though, that it's perfectly ok to request your physician use a shorter/smaller needle from now on (which I did nervously this past year, and phew no problems--my first nervous vaccination experience in almost 15 years of getting shots for work). If you don't seek a legal route, don't hesitate to share things like this with the provider's office who gave you the shot--it's important that they stay aware of how (increasingly) common this particular adverse outcome is.

I hope you go to PT and start working on getting some relief! My heart goes out to you! If it's any help, I got a lot of help from a velcro cold pack when it was at its worst.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

There is no condition on the Vaccine Injury Table for which it is presumed that an influenza vaccine is the cause. That just means that you'd have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that your injury was caused by the vaccine, and the proceedings are designed to favor plaintiffs, so you might win. If the court believes you brought the case in good faith, your attorney's fees will be covered by the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, win or lose.

But I agree that this sounds like an injection technique problem rather than a vaccine problem, in which case it's a malpractice case in regular court. I have no knowledge about your chances in that situation.
posted by lakeroon at 4:16 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

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