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Navigating Adverse Vocational Expert Testimony in SSD Hearings: Effective Strategies

Posted by James Aspell | Nov 09, 2023 | 0 Comments

Understanding Vocational Expert Testimony

When dealing with vocational expert testimony, it's crucial to understand the scope and the impact it has on a case. Vocational experts are brought in to assess the ability of a person to perform certain jobs, considering their physical and mental limitations, education, and work experience.

The Role of a Vocational Expert

Assessing the Job Market

A vocational expert analyzes the current job market and identifies positions that a person can potentially fill. They consider factors such as the demand for certain jobs and the qualifications required.

Evaluating Transferable Skills

Vocational experts evaluate a client's transferable skills. These are skills that can be used in different jobs beyond the person's previous employment.

Challenging the Expert's Claim

Cross-Examination Techniques

When a vocational expert claims your client can do the job of a "sausage stuffer," it's time to prepare for a meticulous cross-examination. Focus on the specifics of the job and whether the expert has accurately represented the physical and cognitive demands of the role.

Presenting Contradictory Evidence

Gather evidence that counters the vocational expert's claims. This might include medical records, job descriptions, and industry standards that show the job is unsuitable for your client.

The Impact of Vocational Testimony on Your Case

Determining Compensation

Vocational expert testimony can significantly affect compensation. If an expert testifies that a client can work, this might reduce the damages awarded.

Influencing Settlement Negotiations

The testimony can also influence settlement negotiations. A strong counter-argument to the vocational expert's testimony can lead to a more favorable settlement.

Building a Strong Case

Expert Witnesses

Consider hiring your own vocational expert to provide a second opinion. An expert who can testify to the contrary can be invaluable.

Documenting Limitations

Document your client's limitations thoroughly. Medical reports, functional capacity evaluations, and personal testimony can support your position.

Legal Strategies and Precedents

Examining Previous Cases

Look at past cases where vocational expert testimony was pivotal. Learn from the strategies used and the outcomes achieved.

Utilizing Vocational Standards

Use vocational standards to question the expert's methodology and conclusions. Point out if the testimony does not align with recognized vocational assessment procedures.

Technological Tools for Case Management

Software Solutions

Utilize case management software to organize your evidence and plan your strategy. Technology can give you an edge in preparation and presentation.

Research Databases

Access online databases for research on vocational roles and limitations. These can provide you with the data needed to challenge the expert's claims.

The Role of Medical Professionals

Collaborating with Physicians

Work with medical professionals to obtain a clear picture of your client's capabilities. Their input can be used to discredit the vocational expert's assessment.

Medical Testimony

Consider bringing in a medical expert to testify about the physical requirements of the job in question and whether your client can meet them.

Client Coaching and Preparation

Witness Preparation

Prepare your client for testimony. Ensure they can clearly articulate their limitations and how these affect their job prospects.

Mock Cross-Examinations

Conduct mock cross-examinations with your client to prepare them for the vocational expert's questions and strategies.


Navigating adverse vocational expert testimony requires a comprehensive approach. From challenging the expert's claims with cross-examination techniques and presenting contradictory evidence to building a strong case with your own expert witnesses and documenting limitations, every step is crucial. Employing legal strategies, leveraging technological tools, collaborating with medical professionals, and thorough client preparation can collectively undermine the expert's testimony and sway the outcome in your favor.


What is vocational expert testimony?

Vocational expert testimony involves a vocational expert assessing a person's ability to work, considering their limitations, qualifications, and the labor market.

How can vocational expert testimony impact my case?

This testimony can influence the amount of compensation and the outcome of settlement negotiations by determining the employment capabilities of a client.

What can I do if a vocational expert testifies against my client?

Prepare for cross-examination, present contradictory evidence, hire your own expert witness, and thoroughly document your client's limitations.

How can I use medical professionals to counter vocational expert testimony?

Medical professionals can provide insight into the client's limitations and testify about the physical requirements of the job in question.

What tools can help me manage my case against a vocational expert's claim?

Case management software and research databases can be instrumental in organizing your evidence and strategizing your case

About the Author

James Aspell

Principal since August 1, 2006 James F. Aspell is the principal and managing attorney of the firm which he started in 2006 following 20 years of litigation practice in a mid -size firm in Hartford, Connecticut. Jim focuses his practice in the areas of worker's compensation and personal injury l...


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