What is a Vocational Expert Witness?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

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.

Vocational expert witnesses testify in work-related court proceedings.
Vocational expert witnesses testify in work-related court proceedings.

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 lawyers.
A vocational expert witness may be hired in order to perform case-building work to assist lawyers.

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.

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.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Most of the time, vocational expert witnesses are called to share their opinion. So why are they paid more than, say a regular eyewitness?

I realize that some expert witnesses help build a case with the attorney. That's different. Obviously an expert witness will be paid more in that situation.


@SarahGen-- As far as I know, some research is done about experts in that vocation and they are contacted and requested to be expert witnesses. Some experts are actually affiliated with certain companies who assist attorneys and courts who need expert witness testimony for a case. So I don't think it's a difficult process. Of course the expert has to submit some documents to court such as their resume, experience, educational background and research. The court has to accept the individual as an expert and approve of his or her ability to testify on the matter.

Some experts take up duty as an expert witness on request while others actually do this as a full time job. This is why fees vary among vocational expert witnesses. The court or attorney and the expert decide on compensation together. It depends on the individual's level of expertise and how much work is required of him or her for that case.


How do courts or attorneys go about finding a vocational expert witness? Is it a time consuming and difficult process?

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