Using a Vocational Expert to document a Child’s future Lost Income in a Brain Injury Case

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Some of the most tragic accidents involve victims who are children. When trying to make the children whole in the damages portion of a case, it is imperative to establish a child’s lost future earnings if their injuries were severe enough to implicate such harm. This may seem difficult to do for an individual of a young age, but a vocational expert can establish a child’s potential lost earnings using labor market data.

In one case, a five year old infant passenger sustained severe injuries after a car accident. The child’s parent’s sued the driver who swerved into the car carrying the infant. The plaintiffs contended that as a result of the negligence of the oncoming defendant driver, the vehicle was struck head on, causing the child to suffer a closed head injury which results in a hematoma in the frontal lobe and permanent brain damage. The brain damage manifested into significant cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, extensive difficulties with reading and processing visually presented verbal information, and memory deficits.

The plaintiffs hired a vocational expert who contended that the infant will be very limited in employment opportunities and will be restricted to positions such as a messenger, order handler, or jobs involving light janitorial work. According to the vocational expert, the infant plaintiff will be unable to take any job which requires more than 30 days training because he will be unable to retain training information for a greater period of time. The plaintiff’s vocational expert contended that the child would suffer a future diminution in earning capacity of approximately $13,000 per year, based upon the difference between average earnings in this geographical area and the amount a person with similar deficits could earn.

The defendant objected to the testimony of the plaintiff’s vocational expert, contending that there was no basis for an opinion as to the amount the child would have earned had he not been injured. The defendant also argued that any evidence as to what this specific individual will earn notwithstanding his deficits was speculative. The Court rejected this argument, holding that the vocational expert could offer an opinion based upon the difference between the average earnings of an individual in this geographical area and the amount an individual with deficits similar to the infant plaintiff could command.

A jury found the defendant 100% negligent and awarded $1,250,000 to the child.

Edmond Provder, owner of Occupational Assessment Services, Inc. (OAS), served as the vocational expert on this case. Mr. Provder is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor who has worked as a vocational expert witness for over forty years, and has extensive experience documenting the employability and earning capacity of injured children. In fact, he authored one of the only articles on Documenting Loss of Earnings in Children (Trial Magazine, 12/93). Contact OAS at 800-292-1919 to discuss how we can help in your case.