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 client’s 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 person’s 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.