Building The House Of Damages In Personal Injury Cases – The Importance Of Having A Medical Foundation
The largest dollar amount in a personal injury case is usually the plaintiff’s inability to work and the resultant loss of earning capacity. This is extremely important in proving the damages part of a small, medium, or large case. Therefore, an expert knowledgeable in rehabilitation, as well as the vocational implications of injuries on employability and earning capacity, should be retained. In a larger case of catastrophic injuries, a Life Care Planner should also be hired.
The proper presentation of damages in a personal injury case is important, no matter the size of the case, small or large.
The initial portion of the house of damages is begun by laying the foundation with the testimony of the physician who will discuss the case with regard to the plaintiff’s permanent medical impairments, limitations, and functional capacity. The physician bases his testimony on the completed Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation form that quantifies the plaintiff’s physical and/or mental limitations. This is extremely important as the Employability Expert can use this information to dovetail their opinion regarding the plaintiff’s employability and resultant earning capacity.
The second part of the house of damages, or the frame of the house, is the Employability Expert who will discuss the effect of the medical impairment on the plaintiff’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 plaintiff perform the full range of this work? Has the injury affected the plaintiff’s ability to avail him/herself of overtime opportunities? If the plaintiff 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 demands? If there are no transferable skills, what unskilled work can be performed, and at what exertional level? What do the jobs the plaintiff can perform pay? Is there any work that the plaintiff can perform given his/her physical and/or psychological limitations? In addition, this expert will discuss the loss of household services sustained due to the plaintiff’s injury. This portion of the house is extremely important because, if you do not retain a Vocational Expert/Life Care Planner, the house of damages will collapse.
An understanding of the physical, cognitive, and/or psychological limitations imposed by the plaintiff’s injury will allow the Vocational Expert to assess the impact of the impairment by placing the person’s residual functional capacity into one or more of the physical demand classifications used by the U.S. Department of Labor.
At this point, the roof of the house, or the Economist, will testify as to the total future damages based on the findings and testimony of the Vocational Expert.
The Economist projects the case damages into present value, taking into consideration inflation, discount rate, and life expectancy of the plaintiff. The Economist will discuss the Plaintiff’s yearly loss of earnings, work-life expectancy, and present the loss of household services in their report of the total case damages which becomes the “bottom line” figure.
This method of “Building the House of Damages” is extremely effective as each expert is supported by the other, and it solidifies and moves the case presentation along in court. Each expert is able to educate the jury as to his/her opinions.
Occupational Assessment Services has been involved as Life Care Planners/Vocational Experts in some of the largest verdicts in the United States, including Escobar vs. the State of New Jersey which received a verdict of $166,000,000 and Verni vs. Armark which received a $105,000,000 verdict. Without the use of the OAS Life Care Planner/Vocational Expert comprehensive reports and services, these large verdicts may not have been achieved.
OAS is a Nationwide Vocational and Life Care Plan Expert service with offices in NJ, NY, FL, TX, CT, GA, NV, and CA. Life Care Plans offered by OAS always include an Employability Evaluation. To see how OAS Vocational Expert/Life Care Plan reports can assist you in documenting the damages in your Personal Injury cases, consult www.oasinc.org or call 800-292-1919 for a proposal containing the experts’ professional qualifications, fee schedule, and sample Life Care Plan.