Using a Vocational Expert in Documenting Damages
Many attorneys fail to realize the importance of damages in a case. Sometimes, all
emphasis and energies are placed in the initial hurdle of liability, and the impact
of the injury on the client's ability to work and earn money is ignored. A good damages
preparation may help to strengthen a case once liability has been established.
To date, vocational experts have been used in a wide variety of cases.
Their expertise can benefit personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, workers' compensation, matrimonial, age discrimination, and wrongful termination cases.
Many attorneys do not know when they need the aid of a vocational expert. The attorney
must consider such questions as: What are the consequences of the injuries on the clients
ability to function? How will these injuries affect the client's ability to work? Will the
client's ability to earn money be affected? The answers to these questions will determine
the necessity of retaining a vocational expert.
In personal injury cases, attorneys know that they have a "substantial" case if the obstacle of
liability can be overcome and if there is sufficient coverage. However, few attorneys are cognizant
of how they can document damages in an objective and meaningful way that justifies their demand to
the defense or the insurance company.
Vocational experts have been used by attorneys to bridge the gap between medical evidence relating to the
disability, and economic reports that project damages into the future. Expertise in the areas of rehabilitation, employability, and earning capacity allow the rehabilitation expert to support and enhance testimony of medical and economic experts, and to educate the jury as to the impact of the injury on a persons employability and earning capacity.
An attorney should use a vocational expert for three reasons: To determine the worth of the case, to move the case
toward settlement by justifying the amount of the demand, and to objectively document the case damages, at time of trial. The Vocational Evaluation
or Life Care Plan enables the attorney to present the damages to the jury in a clear, concise, and demonstrative manner.