There is a growing awareness of the physical and psychological trauma resulting from personal injury. The aim in a psychological assessment is to assess the interaction between the physical and psychological trauma, and the nature and degree of the impact of such problems on the individual’s capacity to complete a day’s normal routine.

Some psycho-legal questions that may comprise a comprehensive psychological personal injury assessment are:
What is the client’s present behavioural condition?
Are there pre-existing causes to the present behavioural condition?
Is there a relationship between the client’s injury and present psychological condition, is this consistent with
the traumatic event?
Is the client malingering?
What is the nature and extent of the client’s psychological and/or psycho-neurological disabilities?
What are the likely prognoses and recommendations for rehabilitation?

Components of the Assessment Process

A comprehensive psychological personal injury assessment may comprise all or some of the following components:
Clinical interviews with the client
Collateral interviews (verification of the impact on the client’s functioning)
Personality, educational, vocational, cognitive and/or neuropsychological testing
A review of the client’s documents (e.g. medical, employment, legal, school/college transcripts, military)

The Clinical Interview

A significant component of the clinical interview is the first-hand observation of the client’s emotions, mood and affect, and the occurrance of specific emotional displays during the interview. Other observational targets are the client’s speech, thought processes, and general mannerisms.

The clinical interview largely focuses on history taking and involves:

A description of the accident:
location, weather conditions, time
the nature of the client’s involvement
the physical injuries sustained
post-accident treatment
expectations of the client/significant others

Personal information
developmental, medical, psychiatric, substance abuse, educational, marital/ family, legal, employment,
interpersonal interaction, and recreational histories
a description of current stressors

Administration of Psychological Tests

There are several purposes for giving the client standardized psychological tests. Personality tests are administered to determine whether there are functional contributions to the physical impairment and/or to assess the emotional impact of the personal injury. Cognitive neuropsychological tests are given where cerebral trauma has been sustained or is suspected to have occurred. Other testing may include educational and vocational batteries.

The Areas of Psychological Difficulties

From the information obtained in clinical interview, testing, and other sources, the psychologist identifies the areas of specific difficulties which could include: phobic or maladaptive reactions, how psychophysiological
correlates to the injury, disturbances in sleep or interpersonal relationships, headaches, reduction in
libido, and the ability to work. Other emotional problem areas could be: feelings of anger, helplessness, guilt, a change in attitude, and perceptions of change in quality of life.

The Impact of the Psychological Problems

Ultimately, the psychological assessment aims to identify the manner and extent to which the client’s problems diminish his/her daily routine activity. The frequency, intensity and duration of psychological problems are examined for functioning in the following areas:

From an integration of the accumulated data, a projection of progress and recommendations for treatment are made in a coherent and well integrated report.

What are the benefits of a personal injury assessment?

Personal injury assessments are undertaken at the direction of either the court or legal counsel, especially where psychological trauma is indicated. Such trauma may result from motor vehicle accidents, wrongful dismissals, sexual harassment and abuse, or medical malpractice. A personal injury assessment fully addresses the interface of psychological and physical trauma on an individual’s functioning. Such an assessment may facilitate the healing process and aid in the provision of financial compensation.

Neuropsychological assessments are important for cases related to personal injury suits, particularly when there are suggestions of possible brain injury. A neuropsychological assessment can provide information regarding:

The client’s impairment or lack thereof
Prognosis for recovery and long term cognitive, behavioural and emotional difficulties
Determination of the effect of injury on family and significant others
Description of the impact on future functioning and cost of care.

Who benefits from a neuropsychological assessment?

Individuals with known or suspected brain injury that may have occurred as a result of an accident, whiplash, neurological disease, cerebrovascular accident, chronic alcoholism, etc. This can also include individuals who are experiencing ongoing problems as a result of suspected dysfunction in cognitive processing (e.g. attention and/or learning deficits, memory difficulties, amnesia).