What Do We Really Need to Develop a Vocational Opinion?

Our customers often ask what factors are related to pre- and post-wage earning capacity and how we use that information to develop our vocational opinions. Some of the most important information can be obtained during discovery, interrogatories, depositions, and engagement of other experts. To gather this data, we advise our customers to: 1) identify who holds the pertinent information 2) get access to the information holder 3) ask the right questions; 4) get detailed and useful answers. To facilitate the efficient flow of information, here are some key issues that are central to our vocational assessment process:

  1. Current medical status of the injured individual. Many people return to work before maximum medical improvement is achieved. It is helpful, however, to have a firm medical prognosis, so that we can better predict the final outcome and more accurately project vocational capacity into the future.

  2. Ability to work. Regardless of medical status, it is important to know if an individual is currently able to work, and, if so, when the individual returned to work post-injury. An accurate timeline regarding the claimant’s work status assists us in calculating earnings associated with any “lost time” that the injured individual was not able to earn wages in the labor market.

  3. Physical and Mental Restrictions. Restrictions are often the most important piece of information in determining whether an injured individual can return to their previous job, and, if not, what jobs they can do. It is essential to know if permanent physical, cognitive, or emotional restrictions exist so we can apply those restrictions to the outcome assessment.

  4. Medication effects. The effects of medication can strongly impact potential restrictions that can impact workplace safety, making the need for detailed medication list crucial. It is important to know if adjustments could be made to the medication regimen to mitigate any side effects that negatively impact employability.

The Physician’s Opinion Report form and Physical Capacities Work Restriction form are tools we have developed that can be used as guides for gathering the specific information we require. These two forms are available upon request free of charge.

For a complimentary consultation with one of our experts at Stokes & Associates, Inc. please call David Barrett at 504-454-5009, visit our website, www.stokes-associates.com or email dbarrett@stokes-associates.com.

Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP