How to Document the Economic Damages in a Personal Injury Case; When Do You Need a Vocational Expert?

February 19th, 2015

10422524_s (2)Since the 1960’s Vocational Experts have been used by attorneys who want to assess how a Plaintiff’s injuries affect their ability to work and earn money. These hard damages are crucial in objectively determining the verdict amount.

What is an Employability & Earning Capacity Evaluation? It is an evaluation conducted for forensic purposes that evaluates an injured or disabled person’s ability to work and earn money given their residual functional capacity.

There is much confusion when an Employability & Earning Capacity Evaluation is required.

The first and most important criteria are that the Plaintiff’s injuries are permanent, meaning that the injury in an adult or child is not going to get any better or will have no improvement. Injuries such as a fractured wrist, shoulder impingement, or medial meniscus which heal after surgery are not good vocational cases.  However, a fractured wrist which is fused and painful is a good vocational case.

Second, if the permanent injury negatively affects the Plaintiff’s ability to work at the pre-injury job is considered a good vocational case. For example, if a plaintiff is a tractor-trailer driver and sustains an above-knee amputation and can no longer for medical reasons have a Commercial Driver’s License, the attorney will need a Vocational Expert to document the lost earnings and future lost earnings.

Third, if the usual insurance policy limits are above $300,000 and the injury is permanent, a vocational evaluation should be performed.

Fourth, criteria are if the Plaintiff has been self-employed and reported minimal earnings, he requires a Vocational Evaluation to demonstrated and establish his/her pre-injury earning capacity. This is done by using the state of federal government wage information.

Fifth, if the Plaintiff has a particular desire or reason to work past the usual retirement age, an Employability Evaluation is necessary. If it weren’t for his/her accident, the Plaintiff would have continued to work until age 70. This would add three more years of work-life expectancy to the loss of earnings claim and increases the need for a Vocational Expert.

Lastly, if the Plaintiff is receiving Social Security Disability benefits, it is a good case, as the U.S. Federal government has reached an opinion that the Plaintiff is unable to work.

OAS is a Nationwide Vocational Expert service with offices in NJ, NY, FL, TX, GA, & CA. To see how the OAS Vocational Experts 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 expert’s professional qualifications, fee schedule, and a sample report.

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