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What Is a Vocational Expert Witness?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
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A vocational expert witness is a experienced professional that may be called on to provide testimony in a court case. As an expert witness, a vocational professional analyzes the facts of the case and provides an expert opinion that involves any vocational aspects of the trial, such as labor trends, work requirements, and the effects of an injury on job performance or earning capacity. A vocational expert witness may be hired by a legal team to help build a case or by the court to provide an independent assessment.

Like most expert witnesses, a vocational expert witness must be seen as a consummate professional in his or her area of testimony. Usually, vocational witnesses have considerable seniority and a long history in the field. This is an important factor, as the witness is putting his or her reputation on the line by providing an expert opinion. If the other side hires a witness that successfully refutes the analysis of the first expert, his or her reputation can be permanently damaged.

A vocational expert witness may be hired in order to perform case-building work to assist the lawyers, rather than appear as a witness in a trial. By analyzing a situation, the vocational expert may be able to help the legal team figure out the best strategy for arguing the case. Some vocational experts may provide an affidavit, which is a sworn testimony written by the expert and presented to the court as evidence.

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There are many different types of cases that a vocational expert witness may be able to accept. Generally, these witnesses are experts in work-related matters in a particular field or industry, such as food manufacturing or automobile factory management. Sometimes, they are experts in labor issues such as hiring trends, market outlook, or salary levels for a given profession.

A vocational expert witness may be a part of many work injury-related court cases. He or she may be called in as an independent professional to examine that circumstances and fault of a work injury, to determine if the company was liable through negligence or unsafe conditions. The witness may also assess the likely earnings of the injured worker before and after the accident, and make an analysis of whether the victim's work-life expectancy has been reduced by the injury. All of these factors can combine to make a case for either the defense or the plaintiff, and may help a judge or jury determine what, if any, damages are due.

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