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Vocational Experts Make Your Case

By: Fred J Lewis

Idaho Worker’s Compensation cases are controlled by the Idaho Worker’s Compensation Act which is contained in the Idaho Code. Idaho Worker’s Compensation Claims are 100% statutory creatures. These claims were created 100 years ago by the Idaho Legislator. Injured workers were no longer required to prove their employers were negligent and hurt them.

The most significant benefit that you will be paid in you Idaho Work Comp case is the disability that is over and above your impairment rating. The factors that increase your disability over and above your impairment or permanent partial disability consist of non-medical factors such as, your wage loss, your loss of labor market access, your age, and the level of your education. The Idaho Industrial Commission looks at each of these factors and then calculates your permanent partials disability, or PPD benefit. The most influential factor in increasing your PPD benefit is the wage loss you suffer as a result of your injury and the restrictions that are caused by your injury.

So what happens if you have no wage loss? Can a loss of labor market access alone result in a Permanent Partial Disability being awarded by the Idaho Industrial Commission? The answer to this question is a resounding yes! The Idaho Industrial Commission has repeatedly held that loss of labor market access alone can be relied upon to make an award of PPD benefits. Carpenter v. Record Steel decided on June 6, 2014; Hackworth v. Super 8 and Employers Compensation Insurance Company decided July 27, 2016

The loss of labor market access is calculated by vocational experts. These vocational experts will compare your physical restrictions to the physical requirements for all 12,800 jobs that are contained in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles to determine which jobs you can no longer do. These experts do this analysis by using a program by the name of SkillTRAN. The Idaho Industrial Commission has to rely these to calculate you loss of labor market access because they are not trained to make these calculations. If your vocational expert is unopposed the Idaho Industrial Commission is required to give serious consideration to the testimony of your vocational experts.

In Thomas v. Woodgrain Millwork, IC 2013-023484 (April 7, 2017), the Commission cited to Dineen v. Finch, 100 Idaho 620, 603 P.2d 575 (1979), holding the principle that “contradicted testimony of a credible witness must be accepted as true, unless that testimony is inherently improbable, or rendered so by facts and circumstances or is impeached.” Vocational experts are educated, experienced and capable. They are relied upon by the Idaho Industrial Commission.

As an agency, such as the Idaho Industrial Commission, may not substitute its specialized knowledge for evidence presented by a vocational expert at a hearing, nor may an experienced worker’s compensation attorney who is on the defense side of a Worker’s Compensation case offer vocational testimony.

The Mazzone Court also charged fact finders to act in “independent role[s] as adjudicator[s]” by listen[ing] to the testimony of experts” and “render[ing] an impairment decision based upon the evidence in the record and the law…” (Id at 761, Id at 729).

In order to present you Idaho Worker’s Compensation you will need to hire a vocational expert.

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