Vocational experts play a major role in personal injury cases by objectively proving how an injury affects an individual’s ability to work, and how this ability (or lack thereof) should be reflected in a damages award. Government sources are critically important in backing a vocational expert’s testimony because they provide current, reliable, and detailed labor market information.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Publications
If an individual will no longer be able to perform his previous job duties because of an injury, part of his damages will include the present value of future loss. Present value of future loss is the lump sum payment a plaintiff receives now that is equal to a stream of future compensation that the plaintiff is missing out on because of the injury. As with future medicals and all other lump-sum future damages awards, amounts recoverable for prospective earnings losses must be reduced to present cash value for the probable period of disability. One of the main components of calculating present cash value is the individual’s “worklife,” which is a statistical average of the number of years a person will be working (or would have been working but for their injury). The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Worklife Expectancy Tables are considered most authoritative. The tables are based on raw labor data reported by the BLS. However, Vocational Experts can establish Work Life Expectancy outside of the tables based on an individual’s circumstances which can significantly impact the case damages.
Other BLS publications, such as the national average growth of some type of wage are used to calculate the growth rate of an individual’s salary. The higher the growth rate, the higher the present value of future earnings.
Vocational experts also use BLS publications on employment market data when conducting vocational testing and assessing labor markets particular to a certain geographical area.
Social Security Sources
If the injured party is young and unable to return to work, the reduction in Social Security payout at retirement owing to the injury may be an issue. In that case, Social Security Benefit Calculators are the best source and can be used to figure out retirement benefits at different ages and based on current or pre-injury earnings.
The Social Security eligibility ages are sometimes considered in addition to the work-life when calculating the present value of the future loss.
These are just a few of the government sources that experts, courts, and juries trust. The vocational experts at Occupational Assessment Services can ensure proper and consistent use of such sources, using their own familiarity with the data and agencies to properly interpret an individual’s damages in a personal injury claim. Call us at 800-292-1919 to discuss your case.