A tort is a civil wrong that a person commits, resulting in injury to another person. Mass torts are lawsuits where the defendant, plaintiff, or both are a group of people, instead of a single individual. The role of forensic psychiatrists in these cases is to evaluate the members of groups who are involved in a multi-plaintiff ligation. These lawsuits may be over personal injuries that are received as a result of public transportation accidents, toxic substances, polluted water, and other similar situations. A team of forensic psych experts will work to assess the degree of emotional damage that has resulted from the action or inaction of another.
Generally, a single tort must be committed which results in the injury of numerous victims who are suing one or more plaintiffs for the negligent act, in order to be considered a mass tort. The multiple suits are usually the result of injury by the same product. Before the lawsuit can go forward, the plaintiffs’ lawyer will have to get permission from the court to file the action.
Forensic psychiatrists can provide their expert opinion on the effects of the injury on the group and may increase the damages that the plaintiffs are awarded. Providing the trier of fact with an understanding of the emotional difficulties the plaintiffs face, both before and after the event, can have a direct effect upon ultimate settlements or the size of judgments. This also applies to those members of the group who have pre-existing psychological problems, as the forensic psychiatric experts can explain either how and why the incident caused or worsened existing emotional problems, or did not.