When retained as a vocational rehabilitation consultant or expert witness in such cases, unlike when serving as a client’s rehabilitation counselor, no client-counselor relationship is established between Dr. Hankins and the evaluee (i.e. typically the plaintiff or claimant in a forensic context). Instead, Dr. Hankins conducts an independent vocational and/or rehabilitation economic evaluation to objectively evaluate the evaluee’s employment and/or earning potential, including the impact of an injury or other incident on his or her ability to work and earn money.
Additional services may be performed depending on case circumstances, particularly in more serious personal injury (e.g. household services analysis; life care plan valuation) or wrongful death (e.g. household services analysis; personal consumption/maintenance analysis) cases.
If desired, a detailed description of Dr. Hankins’ analysis and findings will be provided in a written report to the referral source/retaining attorney. Expert witness testimony via a deposition or trial appearance will also be provided when requested.
Consistent with person-environment correspondence theory, when conducting independent vocational and rehabilitation economic evaluations, the evaluee’s employment and/or earning potential is assessed from a biopsychosocial perspective, including personal and environmental factors that pertain to the evaluee’s employability (factors related to an individual’s labor supply) and placeability (factors related to labor demand within a geographical area or an organization).
The particular outcome(s) of interest often vary depending on the type of case in which Dr. Hankins is retained. For example, in disability cases such as Social Security disability, long-term disability and Veterans Administration disability, the primary issue is whether or not a claimant meets a specific definition of disability. In these cases, the focus is on the evaluee’s employment potential and medical opinions about his or her residual functional capacity are considered along with non-medical factors such as age, education and work history to determine whether or not the evaluee can return to previous employment or reasonably be expected to adjust to other employment.
In personal injury and wrongful death cases (e.g. auto accidents; medical malpractice; product liability), the focus is usually on the impact of a specific incident on the evaluee’s employment and earning potential. Evaluations in these cases thus first require an analysis of the evaluee’s pre-incident earning capacity (or earning capacity absent incident) and then, in injury cases, an analysis of his or her post-incident earning capacity (or earning capacity given incident). Determination of an evaluee’s post-incident earning capacity, if any, requires the assumption that he or she is motivated to return to work and, to the extent possible, mitigate any economic losses sustained due to the incident.
In workers’ compensation, wrongful termination and employment discrimination cases, an assessment of the evaluee’s residual employment potential is typically necessary. An analysis of the reasonableness, or diligence, of the evaluee’s post-injury or incident job search efforts is often a relevant component of evaluations in such cases as are determinations about whether the individual has sustained any temporary or permanent wage loss or loss of wage-earning capacity attributable to the injury or incident of interest.
Finally, in marital dissolution cases, assessments of the wage-earning capacity of one or both spouses are sometimes necessary to assist courts in determining appropriate amounts of alimony and/or child support payments to be directed as part of a divorce decree. Evaluations of spousal earning capacity are often performed in cases where one spouse has been out of the labor force (or has only worked sporadically) for an extended period as well as when one spouse is claiming that a medical condition either limits or prevents him or her from working.
In any of these cases which involve litigation about employment-related issues, Dr. Hankins is experienced in effective communication with the referral source to identify the key issues of interest, assuming the requested role of case consultant or expert witness and conducting an independent, objective evaluation leading to the formation of defensible opinions regarding an evaluee’s degree of vocational disability and/or economic loss.