Case Study: The Airport Accident and the Need for Vocational Expert Testimony

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vocational expert testimony.

For anyone who has suffered a catastrophic injury, the stakes are high. Their injuries will likely impact not only their health but their ability to work, their family, and their overall lifestyle. It is essential that they are adequately compensated so that they and the loved ones who depend on them can live their lives as fully as possible after the accident. 

If you have represented a client who has suffered a catastrophic injury, you understand the complexities of proving both present and future damages. A vocational expert in New Jersey will help you paint a clear picture for an insurance company or jury of the accident’s impact on your client’s life. The expert can help to ensure that an accident victims receives the maximum settlement or court award. 

What Does a Vocational Expert Do in a Personal Injury Case?

A vocational expert conducts a work-related assessment of an injured party and provides impartial opinion evidence about their ability to work after the accident that is the subject of the litigation. Using established methodologies, the vocational expert shows both the plaintiff’s lost wages due to the accident and their diminished future earning capacity.

To accurately assess a party’s suitability for work, the vocational expert stays informed of the condition of relevant industries and job markets. They use this knowledge to determine whether an injured party can return to a level of employment similar to what they had before the accident. The expert can then advise the negligent party’s insurance company or a court of what jobs the injured person may be able to obtain or that their chance of reemployment is unlikely. 

How Does a Vocational Expert Determine an Injured Party’s Diminished Earnings?

As a lawyer representing an injured party, you must establish their injuries and the effect of those injuries on their employment to recover damages on their behalf. You will likely use the testimony of doctors and other medical professionals to show the nature and severity of your client’s injuries. A vocational expert in New Jersey can provide the necessary evidence of the accident’s negative impact on your client’s ability to work. 

To prove diminished, or lost, earning capacity, the vocational expert will first conduct a vocational evaluation that includes the following:

1. A review of background information, including the injured party’s education and training, prior work history, and medical records;
2. A discussion of the injured party’s residence, and a virtual interview of the injured party and their family members to assess how the accident has impacted their daily lives;
3. Research on the cost-of-living and relevant job markets in the injured party’s geographic area; and
4. Analysis of labor statistics, wages, and benefits in the plaintiff’s general field of employment.

Based on the information obtained in the evaluation, the vocation expert can provide an opinion on the plaintiff’s ability to work, if any, and the potential jobs available based on their physical and emotional functioning. If your injured client is unable to return to their prior employment field, the expert can provide information regarding any jobs the injured person might be able to do given their current condition. A skilled vocational expert may also work with an economist to establish a present-day value of the plaintiff’s diminished earning capacity.

How a Vocational Expert in New Jersey Can Assist In a Personal Injury Case

As a lawyer preparing to present a claim to an insurance adjuster or in court, you can work with an experienced vocational expert to prepare compelling testimony and exhibits that establish your client’s earning capacity before and after the accident. The expert can educate the insurance company or jury on the impact of your client’s injuries on their ability to earn a living. 

To illustrate the value of a vocational expert to a personal injury claim, consider the case of Vito Saladino and Annmarie Saladino v. Stewart & Stevenson Services, Inc., Stewart & Stevenson Technical Services, Inc. and Stewart & Stevenson Tug. Litigated in the U.S. District Court in New York, this matter involved a 36-year-old airline clerk, Vita Saladino, who was severely injured while riding in a “baggage tug” tractor on an airline tarmac. The engines of a stationary American Airlines plane expelled turbulent gases that dislodged the tractor’s hood, which struck Mr. Saladino in the head. 

Mr. Saladino underwent multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. He was paralyzed, suffering total quadriplegia. He requires the constant assistance of nurses and health aides and cannot work in any capacity. His medical expenses through the time of trial totaled almost $5 million. He sought reimbursement for that amount as well as recovery of his past and future earnings and pain and suffering. 

Two separate juries awarded total damages of $40,190.417.20 to Mr. and Mrs. Saladino. Of that amount, over one-half million dollars represented Mr. Saladino’s past lost earning capacity and $1 million was awarded for his future lost earnings. In that case, the vocational expert’s testimony was critical in establishing both what Mr. Saladino could have earned prior to trial were he not injured and what he may have made throughout the course of his anticipated employment in the airline industry. A New Jersey vocational expert reduced these projected amounts to a present-day value and provided compelling evidence to the jurors, resulting in a successful claim for Mr. Saladino.

The Experts at OAS Can Help You Secure Appropriate Compensation for Your Personal Injury Clients

The experts at OAS have over forty years of experience documenting the diminished earning capacity and other damages of those who have suffered severe physical and mental injuries. 

OAS has served as experts on many multi-million-dollar outcomes, from the backseat passenger case above to a record-setting $102 million verdict in a NY catastrophic injury case and many more in between.

We strongly believe in the importance of a clear and understandable presentation of the facts. OAS is the leading provider of vocational expert services

OAS is your vocational expert nationwide, with offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nevada, and California. 

To discuss your case, call us at 1-800-292-1919, contact us at a location near you, or through our online form.