How to Document the Potential Earning Capacity of Children in Personal Injury Cases

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Many personal injury attorneys realize that a Vocational Expert is important to cases of a permanently injured adult but neglect to properly build the house of damages in cases involving children.

There are multiple ways of documenting the loss of earning capacity of children.

One way to assess the loss of earning capacity of a child is to have the Vocational Expert review and analyze a list of occupations in the local or national economy that the child could have potentially performed later, as an adult, if they had not been injured in the accident, then look at the jobs he/she could have potentially performed later, as an adult, given his/her post-accident limitations.

For example, a child who sustained an above-knee amputation would be limited to performing Sedentary Work, precluding them from performing the following types of occupations: carpenter, painter, ironworker, construction laborer, tractor-trailer driver, and heavy truck driver. He/She could perform such sedentary occupations as an assembler, electrical wirer, general clerk, packer, collator, and guard. The mean difference in the earnings of these occupations would represent the loss of earning capacity of the child due to his/her limitations.

Another aspect of documenting the potential loss of earning capacity of a child is the diminution of intellectual capacity as a result of the injury. This usually occurs in cases of traumatic brain injury or lead poisoning.

The Vocational Expert can assess the child’s pre-injury educational attainment based on his/her own intellectual level or the parents’ achieved academic level. The post-injury educational level is determined by the results of the Vocational Evaluation. The difference in salaries of the pre- and post-injury educational level provides the loss of earning capacity.

Another method is to have the Vocational Expert determine the child’s potential educational level prior to the accident and compare it to their post-accident potential educational level using U.S. Government national earnings statistics. The difference of these two numbers represents the diminution of earning capacity.

CASE ILLUSTRATION – Developmentally Disabled Child

Sara Burns was a 14-year-old mentally retarded child with an I.Q. of 55. She had contracted meningitis which was misdiagnosed by the local hospital. Due to her severe developmental delays, Ms. Burns required many types of therapies. Her parents and siblings had completed at least an Associate’s Degree College program. At best, Ms. Burns’ vocational potential was placement in a work activity center. The average earnings of a female with an Associate’s Degree were used to calculate her total loss of earning capacity over her work life from age 22 to 66.

The Rehabilitation Expert educated the judge and jury as to Ms. Burns’ loss of earning capacity and Life Care Planning needs. The jury rendered a verdict of $28 million based on the detailed Life Care Plan costs.

Occupational Assessment Services has been involved as 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. Aramark which received a $105,000,000 verdict. Without the use of the OAS 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 & CA. 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 a sample report.