Assessing damages in a personal injury case is a three-part process:
1. The Medical Record Review: The foundation of damages is provided by the physician, who details functional impairments.
2. The Vocational Assessment: The vocational expert uses the physician’s report to further explain the impairments and to detail their impact on the individual’s ability to work and earn income.
3. The Economist’s Report. The economist relies on the opinion of the vocational expert’s findings to project the value of the individual’s wages over time, which, in turn, provides the total value of future losses.
The vocational expert will answer questions such as:
1) Can the individual return to his/her employer at the same job?
2) Is the individual able to perform all his/her job duties, or is he/she performing only some duties due to limitations and impairments?
3) Can the individual return to the same employer, but at a different occupation?
4) Can the individual perform a full range of work?
5) Has the individual been unable benefit from overtime or a promotion due to his/her limitations?
6) If the individual is unable to return to his/her past work; are there other jobs the individual can perform?
7) Are there skills that will transfer to other occupations despite an individual’s limitations?
8) Based on the jobs the individual can perform within his/her limitations, what are the expected earnings?
These three experts -- physician, vocational expert and economist -- rely on each other’s findings and are vital to the process of demonstrating and documenting the damages in a case. If one of the experts in the triad is not retained, the case is potentially subject to attack from the opposing side and the case may quickly lose credibility, especially if the other side is equipped with a team of these three expert opinions.