Using A Vocational Expert in a Maritime Accident Case

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A plaintiff in a personal injury action may suffer an injury that prevents him from returning to work. A vocational expert witness can help establish this fact to a judge and jury by conducting vocational testing on the plaintiff and comparing the results to local labor market data. Each individual’s range of damages will be unique, but a vocational expert can use particularized information to illustrate lost past and future income damages. In fact, it is possible for a vocational expert to help establish that injuries from one job make it impossible to return to not only that job but a previous one the plaintiff had.

Personal Injury Case Example
In one particular case, the plaintiff was a 50-year-old seaman working on a ship. While the ship was offloading barges with cargo, the plaintiff’s hand got caught between one of the barges and the hull of the ship.

The plaintiff suffered a severe crush injury to his right dominant hand which severed his ulnar artery and caused compound fractures in four of his fingers. He needed six surgical procedures and skin grafting. Medical expert testimony indicated that the plaintiff will be in pain for the rest of his life. He also suffered from psychological injuries including depression.

The plaintiff sued the operator of the ship under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law, seeking damages for pain and suffering and lost wages.

Prior to this accident, the plaintiff also worked as an automobile assembly line worker. He was laid off, but was called back shortly after this injury. Unfortunately, because of the diminished capacity in his right hand, the plaintiff was found unfit to return to the assembly line. In his suit, the plaintiff contended that he was unable to return to work at all, and claimed lost earnings based on his prior occupation as an automobile assembly line worker.

The plaintiff called an expert witness who performed tests which showed that his IQ had diminished to such an extent after the accident that he was a poor candidate for retaining any future employment. A vocational expert witness was able to show evidence that the plaintiff was unable to perform any manual labor, the only appropriate work available to him with his limited education.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $5,700,000, which the judge reduced as excessive to $4,700,000. Of this amount, $1,700,000 was awarded for lost wages, and $4,000,000 for pain and suffering.

Edmond Provder was the vocational rehabilitation expert on the case. Mr. Provder is the owner of Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS), and has been providing vocational expert services for over forty years. He has assisted in many of the top personal injury cases in New York and New Jersey and can be contacted at 800-292-1919.