Life Care Plan in NYC
The Role of the Vocational Expert
The Three-Part Damages Presentation:
The presentation of damages in a personal injury case is a three-part process. The process is
analogous to building a house. The foundation for the damages is laid by the physician who will
discuss the case with regard to the client's impairment and functional capacity.
The framework is constructed by the vocational expert who discusses the effect of the impairment on the
client's ability to work and earn money. The expert will answer such questions as: Can the individual go back
to his/her prior work? Can the client perform the full range of this work? Has the injury affected the client's
ability to avail him/herself of overtime opportunities? If the client cannot return to his/her pre-injury occupation,
can the skills previously learned or education obtained be transferred to other types of jobs requiring less physical
capabilities? If there are no transferable skills, what unskilled work can be performed and at what exertion level? How
much do the jobs the client can perform pay? Is there any work that the client can perform given his/her physical and/or psychological limitations?
The last component of the house to be added is the roof. This is built by the economist who extrapolates the information provided by the vocational expert and projects the wage data. This will provide the future loss of earning capacity which becomes the "bottom line" figure.
This method of "building" the damages part of the case is extremely effective as each expert is supported by the other, and
it thus solidifies and moves the case presentation along in court. If each attorney attempts to shortcut the three-part damage process, leaving out one of the three experts, a loophole is provided for the other side's scrutiny.
The techniques used by a vocational expert in Workers' Compensation, wrongful termination, and matrimonial cases do not differ from those encountered in personal injury cases. The types of disabilities evaluated in these cases can range from a severely fractured wrist, to a torn medial meniscus, to a herniated cervical or lumbar disc, to a spinal cord injury.
Emotional or psychological disabilities are also prevalent. Due to the range of disabilities and their varying affects on earning capacity, it is prudent to retain a vocational expert to assess employability and earning capacity.
The use of a vocational expert is an important part of developing the damages in a case. The documentation provided by
a Vocational Evaluation and Earning Capacity Assessment should not be overlooked. The experience and expertise brought to
a case by a vocational expert will assist in the documentation of the employability and life care planning damages.