Calculating Injury Losses for Recent Ph.D.

I have a Professional Degree but have not used it yet. I was seriously injured right after I received my Ph.D. How are my lost earnings calculated?  

California law allows recovery for lost wages as well as reasonably certain wages you are expected to earn in the future. One of the things that is recommended in serious injury cases, is to hire a Vocational Rehabilitation Expert who has expertise in calculating the probable earning capacity of people injured in an accident even if they have no prior record of earnings. Many times, these experts will do a survey of jobs in the area where you were seeking employment and find thereby the range of earnings of people with a Ph.D. in the filed in which you graduated.

Alternatively, he or she may use tables such as those propounded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the range of earnings that you might have expected to make.

For example, let’s say you are 31 years old and just received your Ph.D. in psychology. You have been totally disabled in an accident. The vocational expert would consult tables to see how many years you would likely work once you were employed. This is known as your work-life expectancy.

Here is an older work-life expectancy table. Looking at it, the average 31 years old would have a work-life expectancy of 28 years or so.

More accurate are recent tables would show people are working longer and would also break down work-life expectancy by race, education, and sex.

But on the above example, the Vocational Expert would take 28 years that you would have been expected to be able to work and multiply it by the average Starting wage of Ph.D. candidates in your field. Let’s say the number is $78,000

He would then add in the value of benefits (typically 20 percent or more of the base figure) and calculate raises you would have made on average over the length of your career.

Let’s say over 28 Years with benefits and raises you would have earned $110.000 yearly on average. Over your lifetime, the income loss you would have suffered from benefits is approximately $3,080,000.

He would then consult with an economist to find out the present value of a stream of payments totaling $3,080.000 over 28 years.

Let’s say that the present value is $2,145,000. That would be the figure your attorney would ask for loss of earning capacity if the attorney were experienced and knew how to work with experienced experts.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 3.25.20]
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