What is a Forensic Evaluation and who would need one?
A medical-legal or forensic evaluation is a comprehensive evaluation that addresses questions that are not typically the focus of a routine clinical assessment. A clinical evaluation typically involves the assessment of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, a diagnostic formulation, and the development of specific recommendations designed with the goal of using strengths to compensate for weaknesses in daily life.
Forensic evaluations include a review of all pertinent legal and clinical documentation, detailed clinical interviewing, collateral data gathering, and the administration of neuropsychological and psychological tests, often with specialized forensic measures. In a forensic evaluation, the referring party (usually an attorney) receives the results of the assessment, and the individual being evaluated may or may not have an opportunity to review the results. Verbal feedback will be provided to the referring party at the conclusion of the evaluation, and a written report will be prepared (if requested) that includes specific sections that address the reason for the evaluation, as well as test interpretation and recommendations.
Forensic Neuropsychological Evaluation reports can address numerous questions related to civil matters including:
- Plaintiff and Defense Independent Neuropsychological Evaluations (IMEs)
- Personal Injury Litigation
- Auto and Workers’ Compensation Claims
- Detection of Feigning, Malingering, and Symptom Magnification
- Medical Malpractice
- Disability Determinations
- Civil Capacity Evaluations (Guardianship/Conservatorship, etc.)
- Fitness for Duty Evaluations for various national and state licensing boards, including Medical, Psychology, Behavioral Sciences, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, Dental, Registered Nursing, Police Department and Fire Department
At Southern Arizona Neuropsychology Associates (SANA), our work in civil cases is approximately 50/50 defense and plaintiff.
Forensic Case Consultation
Forensic consultation services can be useful to provide education regarding a patient/client and to inform pretrial strategy. Many times, a consultation is requested to review and evaluate the testing data and opinions of other psychologists, highlighting the weaknesses as well as strengths of their reports and conclusions. The expertise brought to bear apprises the referring source as to what may help strengthen a case or pinpoint weaknesses prior to arbitration or a trial date, assisting in both deposition questioning and cross-examination.
Neuropsychologists are often called upon to give expert testimony in a case. Using traumatic brain injury as an example, testimony offers the opportunity to opine on causative, contributory, or competing factors related to a client’s functioning. Operating within court-imposed time constraints, detailed evaluations are provided to attorneys and their clients to assist and identify neuropsychological impairment arising from accident-related injuries or other trauma.
Once in trial, a neuropsychologist can provide accessible and meaningful information. They can discuss the validity of neuropsychological testing as a useful method of diagnosing injury and the effects of the injury, and they can speak to the likely future ramifications an injury to the brain can have on a person’s daily functioning and quality of life. On the other hand, a neuropsychologist can determine if an individual is reporting symptoms consistent with a brain injury that are actually due to other mitigating or unrelated causes. Clarifying the origin of symptoms is always an important diagnostic consideration.