For injuries occurring prior to July 1, 2014, vocational disability is a central issue in Tennessee Workers’ Compensation cases. In making an assessment of vocational disability, the trial court may consider many pertinent factors, including job skills, education and training, age, work experience, duration of disability, local job opportunities, and the employee’s capacity to work at the kinds of employment available in his disabled condition. Orman v. Williams Sonoma, Inc., 803 S.W.2d 672, 678 (Tenn. 1991); Clark v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., 774 S.W.2d 586, 588 (Tenn. 1989); Holder v. Wilson Sporting Goods Co., 723 S.W.2d 104, 107 (Tenn. 1987); Roberson v. Loretto Casket Co., 722 S.W.2d 380, 384 (Tenn. 1986). Vocational disability does not depend upon either a medical or vocational expert, but, instead, the extent of vocational disability is a question of fact to be determined from all of the evidence, including lay and expert testimony. Worthington v. Modine Mfg. Co., 798 S.W.2d 232, 234 (Tenn. 1990); Corcoran v. Foster Auto GMC, Inc., 746 S.W.2d 452, 457-8 (Tenn. 1988). Although a rating of anatomical disability by a medical expert is one of the relevant factors, “vocational disability is not restricted to the precise estimate of anatomical disability made by a medical witness.” Henson v. City of Lawrenceburg, 851 S.W.2d 809, 812 (Tenn. 1993) (citing Corcoran, 746 S.W.2d at 458). In addition, the employee’s “own assessment of [his] physical condition and resulting disability is competent testimony that should be considered….” McIlvain v. Russell Stover Candies, Inc., 996 S.W.2d 179, 183 (Tenn. 1999).
Vocational disability is “‘measured not by whether the employee can return to h[is] former job, but whether he has suffered a decrease in h[is] ability to earn a living.'” Lang v. Nissan N. Am., Inc., 170 S.W.3d 564, 570 (Tenn. 2005) (quoting Walker v. Saturn Corp., 986 S.W.2d 204, 208 (Tenn. 1998)). The test is “whether or not there has been a decrease in the employee’s capacity to earn wages in any line of work available to the employee.” Corcoran, 746 S.W.2d at 459.
If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI matter, personal injury matter (car wreck, boating accident, slip and fall, etc.), EEOICPA claim, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611, through Facebook, or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, Greeneville, Harriman, Dayton, Spring City, and Deer Lodge.