How a Vocational Expert Can Help—or Hurt—Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
While some workers make a full recovery from an injury they suffered in a workplace accidents, others do not. Some employees will suffer a partial permanent disability that causes limitations in their ability to perform the job duties they had before their accident. In other cases, workers can suffer more catastrophic injuries that result in their permanent disability.
A workers’ compensation claim where the worker suffers a partial or permanent disability can result in larger settlements than cases where the worker makes a complete recovery. Because of this, the workers’ comp insurance company may fight harder to deny or reduce a claim. A worker may need to hire a vocational expert to help prove his claim. However, the employer may also hire a vocational expert to support their position that the worker is well enough to perform his job duties. Here, we discuss the role of vocational experts in workers’ comp cases.
What Is the Role of a Vocational Expert in a Workers’ Comp Claim?
A worker may need to retain a number of experts in his workers’ compensation case, depending on the disputes in his claim. A vocational expert can be helpful to prove the limitations and disabilities a claimant suffered as a result of a workplace accident. Vocational experts have the training and experience to explain how a worker’s injuries and medical diagnosis will affect his abilities to perform specific jobs and his day-to-day activities. If applicable, the expert can detail why an employee cannot perform any job. He may also issue an opinion as to how vocational rehabilitation could help the worker return to his former job or be trained to be employed in a new profession, if this is possible.
A vocational expert will often provide a written report and can testify when a worker’s case goes to trial. He will generally base his opinions in the report on the following:
- Worker’s education and training
- Work experience
- Job skills the worker possesses that are transferrable
- Physical limitations and any other limitations
- Job market
Tips for Handling a Meeting With a Vocational Expert or Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Workers’ Comp Insurance Company
The workers’ compensation insurance company may hire a vocational expert, especially if you have retained one, or a vocational rehabilitation counselor to help you return to your former job or a new one. This vocational expert will also write a report and can testify in support of your employer at your trial. He would most likely claim that you can perform your prior job or another comparable one.
You may be required to meet with this vocational expert or counselor. Because this person most likely works for or was hired by the insurance company, you need to be very cautious about what you say. He may be looking for additional harmful information to provide to the insurance company. Here are some tips for handling a meeting with a vocational expert or rehabilitation counselor retained by the insurance company:
- Get advice from your attorney. You want to discuss any meeting with a vocational expert or counselor with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. He can give you advice on how to handle the appointment and let you know what to expect. Your lawyer may want to attend this meeting with you.
- Don’t make careless statements. Watch what you say very carefully. You want to avoid making statements that indicate that you will not look for any job or that you will not accept a job of a certain pay rate. The expert or counselor could inform the insurance company of these statements.
- Don’t make overly optimistic statements. Be careful not to make statements that suggest that you can do more than you really can, given your injuries, or be coaxed into agreeing that you can perform job duties that you cannot manage.
- Meet at a neutral location. You do not have to let a vocational expert or counselor meet with you at your home, and you do not want to agree to this. He could try to find information to support the insurance company’s position that you can do more than you claim. Be certain that the meeting is in your attorney’s office or a neutral place, such as an office, library, or restaurant.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will have a network of qualified vocational experts and experience in challenging the qualifications and findings of the expert for the insurance company. If you were injured at your job and need to file a workers’ compensation claim, call our office today to schedule a free consultation with Manfred Ricciardelli.