Although more courts are turning to an expert witness in psychology and forensics to evaluate defendants and plaintiffs in court cases, many people do not understand the role of the forensic neuropsychologist in legal matters. In cases where a traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs as the result of a fall, traffic accident or being struck, the condition is treated by a neurologist. Forensic neuropsychological testing is sometimes used to evaluate criminal or civil litigants. In order to do an effective assessment of the individual, the person performing the evaluation should be highly qualified in both areas of forensic psych and clinical neuropsychology. The requirements are determined by the state.
The evaluations performed by the examiner should include testing their general cognitive abilities, sensory perception, motor speed, coordination, assessments of language functions, nonverbal skills, personality and emotional adjustments, and others.
The result of the neuropsychological testing is used to determine the classification of the head injury the person has received. This area of specialty is important in these cases where the physical and behavioral actions on the part of the individual must both be evaluated in order to determine the type of damage that has resulted. A number of classifications of head injuries exist under the headings of concussion and for TBI. This can be very important in determining the person’s prognosis, degree of impact the injury will have on their life, and whether it will result in a short-term, long-term or permanent disability. As our understanding of brain injury become more sophisticated, the importance of forensic neuropsychological assessment only grows.