The Difference Between a Vocations Experts and an Economist

July 7th, 2014

When deciding on which experts to utilize one a specific case, it is important to understand the difference between a vocational expert and an economist. Each has a significant role and functions that the other relies on.

Vocational Expert

A vocational expert evaluates a person’s ability to work given their impairment, functional limitations, and vocational capacity.   A vocational expert determines the plaintiff’s employability, as well as documenting the loss of earning capacity caused by the injury.  The vocational expert compares the injured plaintiff’s pre-injury earning capacity to their post-injury earning capacity, with the difference being the loss of earnings due to the Plaintiff’s injuries.

Economist

An economist reports the total value of the economic loss caused by a plaintiff’s injury by calculating the lost earnings and bringing them up to present value. Fringe benefits, pension plans, inflation rates and discount rates are all included as part of the projected economic loss. An economist may also include loss of home services based on the assessment conducted by the vocational expert in his report.

Both Experts

The services provided by the vocational expert and the economist are complementary. The vocational expert lays the foundation for the economist, and once the vocational evaluation is complete, the economist is able to use that information to create his report and project the Plaintiff’s loss of earnings into the future.

Using an economist without a vocational expert may leave a case open to questions regarding the plaintiff’s employability and negatively impact the final damages award. The validity of the economist’s report is directly related to accuracy of the underlying vocational analysis. Such was the unfortunate case for a 48-year old ship’s electrician, earning $20,000 per year, who injured his right dominant hand in an accident. His economist testified without a vocational expert’s evaluation that he had sustained total unemployability resulting in a loss of earnings of $500,000. The defendant did have a vocational expert, and this expert testified that the plaintiff was unable to perform, but could perform work requiring the use of one hand that paid $10,000 a year. A verdict of $250,000 was rendered.

The use of a vocational expert in tandem with an economist documents a case in the strongest possible manner, as each expert builds on the other’s findings in order to present a complete picture of the economic loss of the client. The vocational experts at Occupational Assessment Services may be contacted at 800-292-1919 to discuss how we can help you prepare for your case.