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Legal Aspects of Neuropsychology


What is forensic neuropsychology?

Forensic neuropsychology represents the intersection between law and neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists are often called upon to render expert opinions needed for legal determinations. Psychological and neuropsychological testing provides a level of objectivity and accuracy needed for fair legal decisions.


Legal areas in which neuropsychologists may be called upon include:

Workers' Compensation: When a worker is injured on the job, the employer or the state may be required to pay for the worker's treatment, and provide compensation for possible permanent injury. A neuropsychological assessment can be used to make determinations about memory, cognitive, and emotional injuries.


Disability: Insurance companies and Social Security may provide payments to people who are too disabled to work. Neuropsychological testing can provide an objective index of the presence and degree of brain damage or psychological disability. This type of testing can also be used to prove the legitimacy of a claim, or to demonstrate symptom exacerbation or malingering.


Personal Injury: When an injury occurs outside of the workplace, such as injury due to a defective product, auto accident, or assault, a legal action may be filed to determine liability for the injury and to collect damages. A neuropsychologist may provide assessment of brain and/or emotional damage.


Criminal Law: Psychologists are used to evaluate criminal defendants in order to determine their competency to stand trial and to determine sanity as it relates to criminal responsibility.


Independent Medical Exams (IME): Often, insurance companies or lawyers may be concerned that a claimant or plaintiff has been misdiagnosed or is not receiving the type of treatment that is appropriate for the diagnosis. IMEs are performed to provide a second opinion regarding the nature and cause of an injury and the extent of disability that can accompany an injury.


Competency Assessment: Whenever questions arise regarding a patient's safety or ability to care for themselves, a neuropsychologist is often asked to help the court with the adjudication of a patient's competency. Helping family members establish guardianship over an injured loved one is done through the assessment of an individual's cognitive, memory, and personality functioning. The court is assisted through the neuropsychologist's expertise and guided in its determination of competency.

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