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Vocational Evaluation for Personal Injury Cases

Vocational Evaluation for Personal Injury Cases

Quality personal injury Vocational testing and evaluation involves test instruments that measure the following: reasoning, math, language, spatial perception, form perception, clerical perception, finger dexterity, manual dexterity, eye/hand/foot coordination, color discrimination, strength, climbing/ balancing, stoop/kneeling, reaching / handling, talking/hearing, seeing, work location, extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness/ humidity, noise/vibration, hazards, dusts/ fumes.  These are the areas that the U.S. Department of Labor uses to compare a worker to an occupation to determine if the worker can compete at a competency level [at each work trait] required by an occupation or any occupation.

The vocational expert needs to obtain an accurate work history from the evaluee to determine U.S. Department of Labor DOT/ NOC [ Dictionary of Occupational Titles or the Canadian Classification of Dictionary Occupations] numbers [ from the last 15 years of work history].  The vocational evaluation incorporates using pain instruments to gauge an evaluee’s pain level for all parts of their body.

Medical history (prior to injury and currently present post injury) must be obtained and reviewed. The following must be notated:  Area of body affected by the injury [area, right or left, injury treatment, intensity scale and frequency of pain (hourly, daily or weekly)], result of pain and medications, medical providers, including physicians, therapists (physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, recreational therapist, prosthetist, psychologist, social workers, [dates of service to consult with physicians and therapists; they prefer no more than 6 months to a year without re-evaluation to obtain opinions], weight gain or loss, visible signs of injury [scars, mobility, posture], scar [ face, neck, hand; location (right or left cheek, chin, eyebrow, and measurement of scar] [VA resource is used to determine scar damage percentile], treatments ( e.g., exercise, traction, aqua therapy [specific frequency past and present], assistive devices [cane, walker, wheelchair).  In addition, the following must be determined: Prosthetics (manufacturer, model, supplier), evaluee’s description of current medical situation, evaluee’s expectation for the future, medications (drug name, strength dosage, purpose), evaluee’s perception of physical capacities, environmental tolerances, work restrictions, post-injury problems with extreme temperature changes, poor ventilation, poor light, stairs, narrow halls or doors and steep ramps, problems with post injury ADL’s [dressing, cooking, bathing, grooming, toileting, driving/transportation], vocational readiness [perception of ability to return to former job or other jobs evaluee feels they can compete with former employer or new employer], evaluee’s perception of work activities [example activities dealing with things and objects or activities concerned with the communication of data], fringe benefits ( pre-injury and post–injury [medical insurance/dental insurance/vision care, defined benefit pension plan or 401 or similar plan], consultation with treating physician or expert physician and treating therapist or expert therapist if cognitive issues and with prosthetist (treating or expert) if amputation, or with employer, family member, union leader, supervisor, extended family or girlfriend/ boyfriend.  

Household chores are best determined by incorporating DOT numbers or comparing pre-injury to post- injury using the Dollar Value of a Day and the Functional Capacity Checklist with [FCC] updates.  Determine the evaluee’s social readiness, home barriers, use of computer and access to internet, involvement with community services, clubs, service organizations. 

  • Does the evaluee have speech concerns, is eye contact being made during evaluation? 
  • What is the evaluee’s past education; highest level of degree, major/ minor or school curriculum and dates attended. 
  • What are the evaluee’s diversions all day since injury, what about sleep habits or problems sleeping, did the evaluee follow directions during the interview? 
  • Pre-injury, was the evaluee in special education, what is their reading ability, were grades were repeated, performance in school [obtain school records from the attorney], computer ability and familiarity to software, valid driver’s license, employer information, school information.

One must also use vocational instruments to determine worker motivation, best work environment, temperaments, functional capacity & interest to better understand what makes the worker want to get up in the morning and a make their daily bread.

The vocational evaluation must incorporate additional types of instruments if there are cognitive concerns:  Situational Assessment, Judgement and Safety and Vision Symptoms.

The vocational evaluation requires the vocational expert to determine a worker’s access to employment pre-injury and post-injury.  This access includes the number of occupations the worker has transferable skills for and percentage of occupations within the county, parish, state, or providence.  The vocational evaluation provides training potential and that needs to be above 70%.  The only occupations that can be considered after a damage would be no less than 40% using a transferable skills analysis.  The standard error of estimate is determined by using the vocational quotient [which is the aggregate of all the worker trait scores]. The vocational analysis requires standards, reliability, peer review, and a standard error of estimate.

The vocational expert must determine the workers functions based on the DOT or NOC.  SPC or Specific Vocational Preparation must also be determined along with work history [employer, title, DOT#, dates & wages, specific tasks & skills, full or part-time, union affiliation, reason for leaving job]; military history [branch, stationed, discharge date, rank, type, training, primary responsibilities, secondary responsibilities, off-duty responsibilities],  medical history [pre and post],  recreational history [pre & post], accomplishments with last employer or any employer, experience with office machines, farm equipment, hand tools, transportation equipment, machine or shop tools, special tools or equipment possessed by evaluee, equipment or machines operated for last employer.  

The vocational assessment will either determine wage loss or wage capacity.  Wage loss only requires W-2’s in U.S.  or T-4 slips in Canada.  Wage Capacity determination is based on the mean, 10%, 25%, 50%, 75% or 90%.  The vocational expert will compare the pre-injury occupations for the past 15 years from the time of injury to post-injury occupations that the worker can work at a competitive and sustained rate.  This means the worker must be able to compete 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, with 2 fifteen-minute breaks and one 30-minute lunch [overtime may also be required].  The average worker profile must also be considered to encompass future occupation changes and promotions.  The vocational expert does not use the lowest wage rate or the highest wage rate but the mean of past work [15 years of work history] If the evaluee has no work history, such as a child, the vocational expert reviews the parent’s work history and if needed extended family or siblings along with the average worker profile.

Obtain mediation date, settlement date, trial date and provide the referring attorney with a very thorough evaluation that covers all the concerns of a damage case.  This is conducted by a vocational expert that has some or all of the following credentials: certified rehabilitation counselor, American Board of Vocational Expert, diplomate and a certified international psychometric evaluator, certified vocational evaluator, certified functional capacity evaluator, and certified case manager, certified earnings analyst, licensed professional counselor, certified rehabilitation Vocationologist.  One last attribute would be years of experience.