Medico-legal assessments have long been used to inform cases for both plaintiffs and defendants. In personal injury claims, psychological assessments are used to determine the mental state of the patient as it relates to the accident—how much mental pain and suffering did the experience cause them? Rather than use psychological assessments as purely a litigation tool, a lawyer can utilize the information an assessment reveals to delve into the mindset of other potential clients and gain a deeper understanding of their target demographic.

In an assessment, a psychiatrist will identify the psychological suffering that arises from an accident and the consequences that result from it, such as physical injury, loss of employment, or strained finances. What effect does this suffering have on the plaintiff’s life and work? Are they likely to make a full recovery from their psychological suffering?

A study conducted by Brian F. Hoffman, Head of Inpatient and Day Hospital Units in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Toronto, examined the psychological and demographic commonalities of 110 personal injury plaintiffs. The results came from individual assessments of the plaintiff’s perceived suffering, the effect of the accident on the plaintiff’s emotions, and a complete psychiatric history.

The data was organized by demographics (age, gender, marital status, employment, education, etc.) as well as by accident type and outcome. The average litigant was 40 years old and sought representation approximately 25 months after their accident. One hundred-one plaintiffs were involved in auto accidents while the remaining nine experienced another type of injury, such as a slip-and-fall. The group was comprised of 47 men and 63 women. Sixty-two percent of patients had not completed high school, while 19% attended a community college or university.

The psychiatric conditions of the plaintiffs were measured according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (DSM III) and included major depression, somatoform disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and grief. They found that depression correlated most often with being the driver in the accident while symptoms of anxiety were related to accident severity.

Most of the plaintiffs were married with children and previously worked in the school or the home. Interviews revealed that the majority of litigants felt strong obligations toward their employment and were hard working but unimaginative individuals.

When the assessments were conducted, 70% of plaintiffs had some identifiable physical injury from the accident that could, in fact, cause depression, frustration, and anger. The interview further revealed that most plaintiffs were motivated to bring their case more by guilt of temporary disability than by greed, though the lure of possible compensation was a factor for some.

In general, the study group exhibited personality traits that prolonged the negative effects of their injuries or prohibited their recovery. According to Hoffman, the group suffered from psychological and physical injuries that would last far beyond settlement of their case.

What we can gather from this study is that the mental anguish an accident victim suffers can lead to physical illness and other life losses. Injury victims need to feel a personal connection with a lawyer they trust; taking the time to understand a client’s motivations and background might make the biggest difference of all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.