Determining Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

In cases involving wrongful death claims, a suit is generally filed on behalf of the decedent’s family members, such as a spouse and/or minor children. As vocational rehabilitation experts, we are generally asked to determine the wage-earning capacity and vocational outlook of the decedent “but for” their untimely death. Completing a vocational analysis in a wrongful death claim differs slightly from other types of cases primarily because of the inability to personally interview the individual. Having a consistent methodology of conducting a vocational assessment and obtaining pertinent information from other sources allows the vocational expert to formulate vocational opinions within reasonable vocational probability. So how do we derive our opinions and conclusions?

The answer lies in relying on a consistent methodology. This includes:

  • Review of salient records including earnings statements (If the individual had an established work history)

  • Resume, job applications, and/or employment records (if available)

  • Education/school records

Although the decedent cannot be interviewed, collateral interviews of other sources can be extremely beneficial which can include family members, close friends, coworkers, and teachers. Multiple sources will assist in “telling the story” and provide an understanding of patterns and milestones in the individual’s career/vocational development.
Important information includes work history and related experience, skills and abilities, specialized training, educational background and/or educational pursuits (may have been in school at the time of death), hobbies/interests, ambitions, vocational goals, plans, and aspirations. If employed at the time of death,  it is helpful to have employment/earnings data such as Social Security earnings records or tax returns. 
Wage data can be obtained from reliable sources such as the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Employment Survey, as well as labor market research. Ultimately, the goal is to provide reliable vocational opinions based on the generally accepted methodology that provides accurate estimates for future monetary or losses of the decedent’s vocational outlook and wage-earning capacity.

To find out more about our methods or to discuss a potential case assignment, we offer complimentary consultations concerning "hypothetical matters." 

To strategize with one of our vocational experts or life care plan experts at Stokes & Associates please call David Barrett at 504-454-5009, visit our website, or email

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

David Barrett