The Vocational Evaluation Method
At VECTOR, we believe that plaintiffs are more than the sum of their parts, and that it takes a trained eye and a critical acumen to spot all of the nuances of a plaintiff’s likely vocational trajectory. We evaluate the plaintiff holistically, in order to develop solid opinions using U.S. government standards.
When working with a plaintiff’s attorney, we evaluate only one plaintiff per day for a full day; each plaintiff undergoes a vocational interview and vocational testing, simulating an 8-hour workday. During the day, we record levels of pain, anxiety, and fatigue symptoms as they would present during an entire workday.
When working with a defense attorney, we request that the plaintiff undergo the same full-day evaluation. If this is not possible, we perform highly detailed research of the medical documents and employment records, forming the basis for transferable skills analysis and research of potential employment paths.
During the vocational testing portion of the day, plaintiffs are administered a standardized, comprehensive battery of tests which measure mental and physical aptitudes.
The test battery is based upon the following government standards:
- The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, which defines 10 aptitudes, divided between mental processing and physical abilities, to measure the capacities or specific abilities needed to perform a job
- The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration General Education Development (GED) Scale, which is composed of Reasoning, Mathematics, and Language (reading comprehension)
The plaintiff’s self-reported symptoms are recorded during testing, and later charted on a graph. A comparison between the test results and reported symptoms demonstrates the effect of chronic symptoms such as pain, headaches, anxiety, and fatigue on a plaintiff’s ability to perform mental processing and physical work tasks.
Each plaintiff who visits our office undergoes a 2-4 hour interview with Richard Andersen, who is a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor (in layman’s terms: a career counselor for people with disabilities). Throughout his career, he has performed 2,000-3,000 vocational interviews, making him one of the most experienced professionals in his field. The interview determines:
- The nature of the plaintiff’s past work history using the job descriptions and physical requirements listed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), published by the U.S. Department of Labor
- Educational achievement
- Past and future career goals
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Levels of chronic symptoms based upon a medical model 1-10 pain scale, and their effect on the plaintiff’s functioning
- Disability severity level based on U.S. Census Bureau definitions
- Medications, narcotic or otherwise, and their effect on the plaintiff’s functioning
- Information regarding assistive devices, such as left-footed gas pedal or Dragon dictation software
- Vocational/educational recommendations, such as remedial education, vocational training, or future college degrees
Transferable Skills Analysis
Utilizing the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, Andersen identifies the plaintiff’s work skills obtained from previous jobs. He then researches potential post-injury jobs in a similar industry requiring the same skill set, taking into consideration the plaintiff’s medical limitations, vocational aptitudes, and the results from vocational testing.
For example, assuming a truck driver becomes injured and is unable to return to work because he is limited to sedentary work, he may be capable of functioning as a dispatcher. Consequently, the plaintiff transfers his skills as a truck driver to a less physically demanding position.
Research Supporting Pre-Injury/Post-Injury Opinions
In addition to testing each plaintiff and performing a vocational interview, Andersen performs extensive research to support his final opinions regarding the plaintiff’s employment potential. Research includes the following:
- Review of medical documents
- Research colleges/vocational schools
- Assistive technology evaluation
- Economic Research Institute (ERI) wage estimates
- Government sources of disability information, including:
- U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities
- U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census
- U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation
- U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey
- Social Security Administration
- California Department of Industrial Relations, Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities
- Our database, which currently includes over 1,000 selected quotes from ongoing research with current peer-reviewed literature regarding disability, age, gender, and race discrimination, and the effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act on employment issues
Vocational Expert Testimony
Richard Andersen holds national certifications as a Rehabilitation Counselor and as a Vocational Evaluator, with 40+ years of work experience in vocational rehabilitation. He has successfully testified on cases regarding past and future loss of earning capacity in Superior and federal Courts in 10 California counties.
The following cases represent typical cases in which testimony was provided, their results, and related attorney comments:
EXPERT FOR PLAINTIFF IN RODNEY KING DAMAGES
Nature of the case: In this highly publicized personal injury case, Mr. Rodney King sued the City of Los Angeles for a beating suffered while being apprehended by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers.
Attorneys: Milton Grimes, Esq., of Santa Ana Heights, Frederico Castelan Sayre, Esq., of Newport Beach, and John Burris, Esq. of Oakland, were the principal attorneys representing Mr. King.
Comments: According to Mr. Sayre, “For obvious reasons, which have been more than elaborated in the press, this case, more than any other case, was one in which credibility was absolutely mandatory. Mr. Andersen’s testimony established that Mr. King had substantial employment potential and opportunity prior to the incident and that both potential and opportunity were substantially diminished after the incident. Mr. Andersen’s testimony was a necessary piece in a convoluted puzzle. It was imperative that he be both credible and convincing. The verdict is testimony that he was both.”
EXPERT FOR PLAINTIFF
Nature of the case: Personal injury resulting from a pedestrian versus motor vehicle accident
Attorney: Michael Alder (lead) of Alder Law, APC and Ronald Beck of Perona, Langer, Beck & Serbin, APC
Results: Jury verdict of $7,858,499
Comments: "His testimony was essential in quantifying my client’s future loss of earnings. He’s simply the best in his field."
EXPERT FOR DEFENSE
Nature of the case: Personal injury litigation resulting from a work-related accident
Attorney: James Zurawski of the Law Offices of Zurawski, Jardine & Huston
Results: Defense verdict—case settled for a nominal amount before judgment
Comments: “Mr. Andersen was excellent in his presentation before the jury—calm, reasonable, objective and persuasive during fierce cross-examination.”
EXPERT FOR PLAINTIFF
Nature of the case: Workplace injury resulting in a below-the-knee amputation
Attorney: Ricardo Echeverria of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria
Results: Case settled for over $16 million
Comments: "Mr. Andersen was an integral part in proving the plaintiff’s damages. His preparation and testimony were well-received by the jury."
EXPERT FOR DEFENSE
Nature of the case: Personal injury litigation stemming from a motor vehicle accident
Attorney: Charles Saacke of McNulty & Saacke
Results: Plaintiff’s past and future loss of earnings were reduced by approximately 50%
Comments: “Mr. Andersen’s opinions were instrumental in reducing Plaintiff’s past and future loss of earnings by approximately 50%. Mr. Andersen’s trial testimony was well prepared and to the point.”
EXPERT FOR PLAINTIFF
Nature of the case: Same-sex harassment (male/male) at a large international securities firm
Attorney: Patricia M. Lucas and Shawna M. Swanson of Fenwick & West, LLP
Results: The New York Stock Exchange arbitration panel awarded $750,000 to the plaintiff for damages resulting from the same-sex harassment
Comments: "Richard Andersen was able to convince the arbitration panel, who were openly skeptical at first, that plaintiff had suffered a significant loss of career momentum. In particular, Mr. Andersen was able to explain why plaintiff, despite his quick rise to success and substantial income within his firm, would not be able to match and continue to grow his income elsewhere without taking time off to earn an MBA . . . Mr. Andersen handled defendant’s cross-examination quite effectively, finding opportunities to repeat or expand his articulation of his opinions."
VECTOR welcomes you to learn more about our work by browsing our FAQs and case studies. For additional information, contact us.
EXPERT WITNESS DECLARATION STATEMENT
After retaining Richard Andersen as a vocational expert on your case, you may use the following as a declaration, if you wish:
“Richard Andersen will serve as a vocational expert to determine Plaintiff’s work potential and future earning capacity in relation to his/her medical and/or psychological disability.”