The central question of a personal injury evaluation is not the extent of current psychiatric impairment that exists, but the degree to which the plaintiff’s psychological functioning prior to an alleged trauma has worsened as a result of the traumatic event. When conducting personal injury evaluations, Dr. Ernst establishes pre-injury psychological functioning through a careful review of records, interviews with individuals in the plaintiff’s life, and a detailed clinical interview investigating significant life events or mental conditions that occurred prior to the alleged trauma. Dr. Ernst next assesses present psychological impairment utilizing objective psychological testing, including malingering measures. Finally, in a causation analysis, Dr. Ernst determines whether any changes in psychological functioning were proximately caused by the alleged trauma. Such a causation analysis includes consideration of the base rates of relevant symptoms and disorders, an analysis of whether the plaintiff’s change in psychological functioning occurred temporally close to the alleged trauma, and a consideration of co-occurring stressors, including the psychological impact of litigation. In cases in which a plaintiff is alleging psychological damages from a minor trauma, Dr. Ernst carefully distinguishes between an “eggshell plaintiff” (e.g. a plaintiff whose limited pre-injury coping capacities left him vulnerable to the impact of a trauma) and a “crumbling skull plaintiff” (e.g. a plaintiff whose psychological functioning would have deteriorated regardless of whether he was exposed to an alleged trauma.) Dr. Ernst has extensive experience evaluating an array of traumatic events including, but not limited to, military trauma, childhood physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment, auto and airplane accidents, sexual assault, natural disasters, and exposure to community violence.
For more information regarding personal injury psychological evaluations, please review the below article by Dr. Ernst:
Psychological Personal Injury Evaluations, Trauma, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
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