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October 26, 2022 Modern Law Library

How do you calculate damages in injury trials? Longtime expert witness reveals methodology

By Lee Rawles

For any plaintiff who's been injured or any young attorney just starting out in the field of tort law, it can be daunting to calculate what monetary damages—and nonmonetary damages such as pain and suffering—they should be asking for if they win a civil trial or are evaluating a settlement offer. Estimating what the future would have looked like if an accident had never occurred can seem more like a thought experiment than a scientific process.

But there is a science behind it, says Michael Shahnasarian, and he has written a book, The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases: A Damages Expert’s Perspective, to explain the methodology.

Shahnasarian has a PhD in psychology, and he’s focused his practice on vocational rehabilitation and life care planning.

As an expert witness, he’s participated in at least 5,000 cases, he tells the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles in this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast. The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases walks through the forensic process that he and others use to estimate what someone’s earning potential might have been without an accident, as well as the amount of money that it may take to cover the person’s living and health care expenses in the future.

In this episode, Shahnasarian offers advice to young lawyers interested in tort cases, gives his expert-witness opinion on how best to reach jurors with information without overwhelming them, and shares with listeners his core beliefs about the value and dignity of work.

Listeners of this podcast can get a 20% discount on The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases: A Damages Expert’s Perspective by entering the code VMDCDEP22 at checkout at the ABA store. The discount code is valid until Aug. 31, 2023.

Michael Shahnasarian founded Career Consultants of America Inc. in 1986. The practice provides business consulting, rehabilitation and vocational expert witness services throughout North America and elsewhere. In addition to his PhD in psychology, Shahnasarian has the following specialty credentials: certified rehabilitation counselor, certified vocational evaluator, certified life care planner, international psychometric evaluation certification, nationally certified counselor (emeritus) and nationally certified career counselor (emeritus). Shahnasarian is the author of numerous professional articles, monographs and book chapters and 12 books. The Valuation of Monetary Damages in Injury Cases: A Damages Expert’s Perspective (2022, ABA Publishing) is his latest book. Shahnasarian lives with his wife, Jean, in Tampa, Florida.