The Witness Box

Commenting on expert evidence, economic damages, and interesting developments in injury, wrongful death, business torts, discrimination, and wage and hour lawsuits

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sample direct examination questions for your economic damages expert in a wrongful death case

New to personal injury or wrongful death litigation? Need some ideas on how to direct the examination of your economic expert in an injury or death case?

Below are some questions and answers from a direct examination of one of our economic experts.
(If you want the word version of the sample direct examination questions, click here)
(If you want the pdf version of the sample direct examination questions, click here)

Sample direct examination questions for your economic damages expert in a wrongful death case.

(Question and answer from ACTUAL trial in the following section)

Q: Can you introduce yourself to the jury?
A: Yes, my name is Sarah Ross and I am an economist.

Q: What does an economist do?
A: Economists perform a number of different types of analyses; but generally economists study the demand and supply of goods in various types of markets. These markets could be product markets, such the market for automobiles, or they can be labor markets and instead deal with the demand of employees by firms and the supply of labor by individuals to those firms. My focus and area of research is in the area of labor economics.

[The following could be generated as a result of a follow up question (what does a labor economist do?) or if the jury still appears to be into the testimony, may just be offered without a prompt]

As a labor economist, I deal with issues involving wages and employment levels and how those things are determined on a firm level. In cases such as this one, I am in part asked by attorneys to calculate the economic value of things such as lost earnings and fringe benefits that the deceased would have received over their lifetime had they lived thru normal life expectancy.

Q: Can you tell the jury a little about your educational background?
A: Yes, sure. I hold a Ph.D. in economics from the University of [NAME]. At the University of [name]I specialized in labor economics and applied statistics. I also hold a BA in economics from the University of [NAME]. During my undergraduate I also minored in military science and received a commission in the U.S. Army as a field artillery officer.

A: Can you tell the jury about your professional background? [Have you earned any special honors as a professional economist?]
Q: Yes. Currently I am the Director of [###] at [NAME]. [NAME] is a firm that provides economic and statistical analysis to the legal community. Prior to my current position, I was the principal economists and owner of [NAME],which has now merged with [NAME]. [NAME]was a firm that provided economic and statistical research to the government, business and legal community. I owned and operated the company for approximately 7 years. During this time I was also on the economics faculty at the University of [name]. I taught courses in economics, statistics and corporate finance at the University for about six years.

Q: What were you ask to do in this case?
A: Generally, In this case I was asked to calculate the economic losses that were suffered by the family of Mr. [name] as a result of his death. In general these losses include the lost earnings, lost fringe benefits, and lost household services that would have accured to Mr. [NAME]’s family had he lived thru his normal life expectancy.

Q: Are the things that you were asked to do here today things that you typically do as an economist? {How many times have you testified before?
A: Yes they are. {Over the last four years or so, I have testified between 55 and 65 times. Approximately 20 or so of those involved trial testimony like today.}
Q: Lets talk more about what you did in this case. First, in terms of the economic damages incurred by the estate of the deceased, what did you find in terms of dollars?
A: I found that the total economic loss to the family of Mr. [NAME]was approximately $650,000.

Q: To derive and calculate this number what were the areas that you reviewed?
A: From the family perspective, I looked at the loss of earnings and fringe benefits, such as insurance benefits that Mr. [NAME] would have contributed to the family (or his estate) had he lived thru his normal life expectancy. I also looked at the loss of household services for the family and estate. Household services would be what it would cost to replace the services that he provided to his family, such as taking care of the family car, as well as repairing or maintaining other items around the home.

Q: Generally, can you explain to the jury how you calculate economic damages in those areas? We can go over the specifics in a second, but can you give the jury a general idea of what is involved in the final calculation?
A: Yes, sure. The actual methodology used to calculate the damages in each area, that is earnings, fringe benefits, and lost household services, are basically the same. In calculating for example, lost earnings, the procedure in cases such as this one, is to first calculate the amount of earnings in each year that Mr. [NAME] could have earned had he lived thru his normal work life expectancy. This calculation involves determining the amount of earnings that Mr. [NAME] was capable of earning over a normal work life given factors such as his earnings history, education, job skills and other job related factors.

Once the correct earnings and worklife expectancy are calculated, the next step is to calculate how much that stream of lost income is worth in present day value terms. In otherwords, how much money would the family have to be paid right now, or as of the time of the report, to compensate them for the stream of Mr. [NAME]’s income that will be lost as a result of Mr. {NAME} death.

To calculate the present value, in essence, we have to discount money and income that would have been received in say 10 years, because the actual income would not have been earned for many years in to the future. So with this in mind we could put a smaller amount in an account today and have the expected income amount 10 years from now. The amount we have to put into the account today to meet the projected income payment 10 years from now is called the present day value. For people who are familiar with the Texas lottery, it is the same thing as taking the cash value versus taking an annuity over 2o years or so.

This same approach is used to calculate lost fringe benefits and loss of household services.

Q:Lets talk more about the earnings analysis. What were your findings?
A: In terms of the income that the family lost, income support that the family suffered as a result of Mr. [NAME] death, I calculate that he lost a total of $###,### in present day value terms.

Q: Can you explain to the jury how you would calculate this amount? Specifically can you explain the concept of present value and how it is used to calculate the economic value of the losses to the estate in this case?

Q: How were the fringe benefits losses calculated?
A: Fringe benefits were calculated by getting the economic value of the employment benefits that Mr. [NAME] received. This calculation involved looking at and estimating how much, in terms of the person’s salary, the fringe benefits are worth. To estimate this number, this calculation is based on the U.S. government BLS employer cost data. It shows how much a typical employer pays to provide an employee benefits. Using Mr. [NAME] for example, his fringe benefits were worth ##% of his salary. So in dollar terms his fringe benefits were equal to $#,### per year.

Q: Can you explain what is meant by household services? How are household services calculated?
A: Yes, houseohold services are valued in the same manner as earnings and fringe benefits. The only and main difference is that the economic value of the services that Mr. [NAME] provided to his family has to be determined before hand. To do this, I estimated what it would cost the family to replace the household services that Mr. [NAME] provided, or could have provided, to his family had he lived a normal life. This value or what is commonly referred to as the replacement value, is determined by looking at how many hours a typical individual like Mr. [NAME] spends on household services and the average cost, as estimated by the hour wage of a person who is working in that job, for the household services.

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