Vocational Expert: Should you use one?

How do you know when you need a vocational expert on your case? 

Generally, vocational experts provide guidance on cases where there is a question as to Loss of Earning Capacity. This is different, of course, than loss of earnings. If a plaintiff has recovered to the point where he or she is able to return to the same job held before the incident, or to the same level of earnings, any loss is easily calculated based on the amount of past time lost from work.

However, if there is a question of whether or not earnings into the future will continue at the same rate as in the past, then it is often wise to retain a vocational expert. One, an expert can opine on whether or not the plaintiff will be able to return to work in ANY capacity. Even with a total loss of earnings, issues such as future wage increases, promotions, and likelihood of staying in the same occupation can all affect the calculations. Secondly, a common scenario sees the plaintiff returning to work in a new occupation, but at a different earnings level. A vocational expert is needed to testify as to what occupations are appropriate, the likelihood that the plaintiff could qualify and reasonably obtain such a job, and what level of earnings can be expected over the remaining worklife. Thirdly, there are often issues of retraining, including what it would cost to obtain the necessary education and skills, and at what point any offset earnings would equal anticipated pre-incident levels.

There are many other reasons to retain a vocational expert, and each case has its specific needs. We are happy to discuss your case in advance of any retention, at no charge, to see if it would be beneficial. Whether plaintiff or defense, hundreds of thousands of dollars are typically at stake, so it’s worth the time to consider if a small investment in a vocational expert could make a big difference in the outcome.