PSYCH RECORD REVIEWS, &
PSYCHOTHERAPY & REPORTS
"Your meticulous work is invaluable for plaintiff and defense attorneys."
FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES
Forensic psychologists focus on the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Dr. Lerner specializes in three areas: 1. Emotional Distress Claims, 2. Fitness for Duty Evaluations, and 3. Fitness to Practice Evaluations.
"Psychological injuries"—often referred to as the negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, are frequently overlooked. These are the psychological and functional problems caused by another person's or entity's actions.
Today, there is an increasing awareness of the impact of emotional distress, as evidenced by the following:
It is critical for pro se parties and attorneys to determine whether an individual is grappling with emotional distress and, if so, how it is impacting the client's functioning—their fitness for duty or fitness to practice.
Emotional Distress Claims
There is virtually no limit to the amount a jury may award for egregious emotional distress & pain and suffering.*
Dr. Lerner specializes in emotional distress claims by providing:
1. Forensic Evaluations
In order to substantiate the presence of egregious emotional distress, there must be supportive medical and/or psychological documentation. When there are a paucity of data concerning the severity and duration of a plaintiff's condition, Dr. Lerner may be called upon to conduct a Forensic Psychological Evaluation.
Psychological evaluation provides attorneys with a comprehensive report focusing on the reason for referral, an extensive discussion regarding the event(s) that prompted the evaluation, the plaintiff's history, their mental status, a review of their functioning, objective psychometric test results, current symptomatology, diagnostic impressions, the proximate cause of the plaintiff's distress, the prognosis, recommendations, etc.
By obtaining clinical and objective (e.g., psychometric test) data, a forensic evaluation can empower counsel to prove or disprove claims of egregious emotional distress.
Dr. Lerner introduced the term "Personal Psychological Injury" to address the often overlooked and minimized psychological and functional damages caused by traumatic events. He has served as an expert witness for both plaintiffs and defendants in legal matters involving:
• child abuse
• sexual assault
• sexual harassment
• hostile work environments
• wrongful termination
• wrongful psychiatric hospitalization
• employment matters
• motor vehicle accidents
• train accidents
• personal injury
• dog bites
• medical malpractice, and
• other civil matters.
Due to licensing laws, Forensic Psychological Evaluations are conducted only when the client is in the State of New York.
2. Psych Record Reviews
Attorneys often receive psychiatric, psychological, and other mental health evaluations—progress notes, medical records, education records, employment records, witness reports, police reports, and depositions.
Psych Record Reviews assists attorneys in proving or disproving claims of negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress & pain and suffering. When convergent data are available, further assessment of the claimant is generally not necessary.
Dr. Lerner provides detailed document annotations and executive summaries that address the extent of a plaintiff's emotional and functional problems. Data can be instrumental in determining whether an event was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's alleged difficulties.
• identify strengths and weaknesses in clinical documentation,
• understand empirical psychometric test results and pinpoint critical findings,
• provide unsettling questions for depositions and trials that practitioners DO NOT want to be asked, and
• save the expense of unnecessary and time-consuming psychiatric and psychological evaluations.
In just days, Dr. Lerner provided skillfully annotated documents that reinforced our
legal strategy and obviated the need for costly and time-consuming reevaluation."
Unlike a treating therapist or testifying expert, a forensic consultant functions under the cover of the attorney's work product. And since record review does not involve diagnosis, treatment, evaluation, or prevention of a disorder, it is not the professional practice of psychology. This enables Dr. Lerner to consult with attorneys across the country.
3. Psychotherapy & Reports
Due to the nature of their experience, many plaintiffs benefit from psychotherapeutic intervention. By reaching people early with timely information, guidance, practical strategies and support, we can potentially prevent acute difficulties from becoming chronic problems.
Dr. Lerner provides short-term therapy (i.e., four to eight sessions) in person or virtually. He then generates comprehensive reports for attorneys that address the following:
• Reason for referral,
• plaintiff's relevant history,
• nature of the distressing event(s),
• emotional and functional impact,
• consideration of proximate cause,
• symptomatology and diagnosis,
• treatment methodologies,
• recommendations, and
Obtaining documentation from a treating psychologist can be invaluable for attorneys—particularly prior to depositions, hearings, and mediation. To discuss your needs, please contact Dr. Lerner directly.
Due to licensing laws, psychotherapy is only provided by Dr. Lerner when the client is in the State of New York.
The Second Circuit Sorts Emotional Distress Into Three Categories:
“Garden-Variety,” Significant,” and “Egregious”
Garden-Variety emotional distress claims merit awards ranging from $30,000 to $125,000. Such awards have been rendered in cases where the evidence of harm was presented primarily through the testimony of the plaintiff in the absence of medical/psychological corroboration.
Significant emotional distress claims merit awards ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. These claims differ from garden-variety claims in that they are based on more serious/substantial harm or more offensive conduct and are often corroborated by witnesses and/or medical/psychological documentation.
Egregious emotional distress claims merit awards well in excess of $200,000. These claims differ from significant emotional distress claims when the defendant's conduct was “outrageous and shocking” or when the plaintiff’s physical health was significantly impacted.
In all cases, having psychiatric and/or psychological documentation that substantiates emotional and functional problems will increase the likelihood of an award for emotional distress & pain and suffering.
The “Egregious Emotional Distress” Checklist
Attorneys who observe emotional problems and functional impairment often question whether pursuing a claim of emotional distress is advisable.
The following checklist is a "litmus test" to determine if you are experiencing egregious emotional distress. The more items endorsed, the greater the likelihood that you have such a claim.
❏ are struggling with anxiety, anger, and/or depression.
❏ are having difficulty functioning.
❏ have been experiencing physical/health problems since the event.
❏ have turned to a mental health professional for help.
❏ have faced an experience that was outrageous or shocking.
❏ are grappling with another person's or entity's negligent or intentional actions.
❏ are experiencing sleep or eating problems.
❏ feel frequent heart pounding/racing.
❏ have nightmares.
❏ have difficulty concentrating.
❏ are withdrawing from others.
❏ created a journal describing what happened.
❏ have little or no energy.
❏ have family, friends, and/or coworkers who can attest to the event(s).
❏ feel embarrassed and/or humiliated.
❏ have lost self-confidence.
❏ are struggling with chronic headaches.
❏ are experiencing chest pain or stomach pain.
❏ experience panic attacks.
❏ feel jumpy or easily startled.
❏ feel like a failure.
❏ have difficulty remembering what happened.
❏ were prescribed psychotropic medication.
❏ have incurred medical bills and/or out-of-pocket medical expenses.
❏ have lost wages.
❏ are experiencing chronic pain.
❏ have frequent periods of crying.
❏ struggle with feelings of guilt.
❏ have lost interest in sex.
❏ have pursued medical treatment.
❏ have experienced self-destructive ideation.
❏ turned to alcohol or illicit substances.
❏ have become agitated or violent.
❏ have frequent recollections of the event(s).
❏ have text messages/email where you described what happened.
❏ are struggling with “triggers” of the event(s).
❏ have a loss of interest in activities that he/she enjoyed.
❏ are experiencing feelings of hopelessness.
❏ are hypervigilant (e.g., watchful, cautious, or on guard).
Egregious Emotional Distress:
Five Critical Questions
1. Were you harmed as a result of someone’s negligent or intentional actions?
2. Have you experienced an event that was outrageous and shocking?
3. Are you experiencing emotional and functional problems?
4. Are you facing health problems since the event?
5. Has your experience been documented?
Fitness for Duty Evaluations
Psychological Fitness for Duty evaluations are conducted to determine if an individual is mentally fit to perform the requisite functions of their job. These evaluations are typically required for employees in high-risk occupations, such as law enforcement, aviation, and national security, to ensure that they are not experiencing any psychological issues that could compromise their ability to work safely and effectively.
During these assessments, Dr. Lerner conducts detailed interviews, reviews collateral records, and administers psychological tests. The purpose of these evaluations is to identify any mental health conditions that may impact the individual's job performance, such as depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Dr. Lerner conducts fitness for duty evaluations for numerous professions, including candidates for law enforcement positions, police officers, correction officers, probation officers, school safety agents, traffic enforcement agents, and police communications technicians. He additionally evaluates emergency medical service and fire service candidates, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and firefighters.
Dr. Lerner additionally conducts Fitness for Duty Evaluations with diverse professions including including educators (e.g., teachers and university professors), construction workers and truck drivers, journalists and commentators, entertainers, professional athletes, etc. Finally, Dr. Lerner regularly conducts evaluations to determine the psychological suitability of civilians to obtain gun or firearm permits.
Fitness to Practice Evaluations
Psychological Fitness to Practice evaluations can be invaluable in medical malpractice cases as they can provide insight into a healthcare professional's mental health and emotional well-being. These evaluations can determine if the healthcare professional in question has any psychological conditions or impairments that could affect their ability to provide safe and effective care.
For example, an evaluation might uncover that a physician is significantly anxious or depressed, which could lead to negligence or errors in patient care. An evaluation might also uncover substance abuse issues that could impair a healthcare professional's judgment or ability to perform their duties.
In addition to assessing a healthcare professional's mental health, Psychological Fitness to Practice evaluations can also provide recommendations for treatment or intervention that could help prevent future malpractice incidents.
Overall, Psychological Fitness to Practice evaluations can be a valuable tool in medical malpractice cases to help determine the proximate cause of an incident and prevent future incidents from occurring.
Dr. Lerner has conducted Psychological Fitness to Practice evaluations with healthcare providers including physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dentists, physical and occupational therapists, and mental health professionals.
Every Fitness for Duty and Fitness to Practice evaluation is tailored to meet the unique needs of the client, employer, and/or his or her attorney.
* While there is no cap on the amount a jury may award for emotional distress & pain and suffering in New York, there are caps in some states.
Forensic Psychological Evaluation with Plaintiffs
Who Have Experienced Emotional Distress
by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.
Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
Chairman, National Center for Emotional Wellness
When it comes to legal cases involving emotional distress, a Forensic Psychological Evaluation can be the key to persuasively demonstrating the significant and egregious impact experienced by the plaintiffs. By delving into the psychological and functional aspects of a plaintiff's life, this evaluation can add substantial value to their case.
First and foremost, a Forensic Psychological Evaluation enables plaintiffs to establish a firm connection between the traumatic event and the ensuing emotional distress. By employing a range of scientific methods, including interviews, psychometric testing, review of records, and observations, the forensic psychologist can uncover underlying psychological factors that contribute to the plaintiffs' distress. This evidence-based approach presents a compelling case, as it adds an objective and professional perspective to their subjective experiences.
Moreover, the Forensic Psychological Evaluation provides an opportunity for the plaintiffs to validate their emotional distress by having a trained expert attest to the legitimacy and severity of their psychological anguish. This validation is crucial because emotional distress can often be an invisible and intangible element of a claim, making it challenging to convince others of its impact. With the support of a thorough evaluation, plaintiffs can present undeniable evidence of their suffering, leaving no room for doubt.
Additionally, the Forensic Psychological Evaluation aids in quantifying the extent of emotional distress endured by the plaintiffs. By employing standardized tests and diagnostic criteria, forensic psychologists can assign a clinical diagnosis and objectively measure the severity of their client’s distress. This quantification adds a tangible and measurable element to the case, making it easier for legal professionals and juries to comprehend the true extent of the plaintiffs' emotional hardships.
In conclusion, a Forensic Psychological Evaluation can truly be a game-changer when it comes to showcasing the significant and egregious emotional distress experienced by plaintiffs. It introduces objectivity, validates the plaintiffs' experiences, and provides quantifiable evidence, ultimately adding substantial value to their case. Through this comprehensive evaluation, the plaintiffs' claims can gain the credibility they deserve, helping them seek justice for the emotional trauma they have endured.
Leveraging Psych Document Review & Forensic Evaluation:
Empowering Defense Attorneys Against Frivolous Emotional Distress Claims
by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.
Clinical & Forensic Psychologist
Chairman, National Center for Emotional Wellness
Defense attorneys often find themselves grappling with baseless claims of emotional distress. These claims, while burdensome and frivolous, can significantly impact the credibility and reputation of clients. However, defense attorneys now have a compelling strategy that can effectively dismantle such allegations by incorporating Psych Document Review and Forensic Evaluation into their defense tactics.
Psych Document review involves meticulously scrutinizing relevant medical records, therapy notes, and other mental health reports to gain a comprehensive understanding of the claimant's mental state. It helps defense attorneys identify any pre-existing mental health conditions, inconsistencies, or discrepancies that could cast doubt on the validity of emotional distress claims.
By combing through these documents, defense attorneys gain insights into the claimant's mental health history and potential misattributions of emotional distress and evaluate the severity and impact of any pre-existing conditions. Armed with this knowledge, defense attorneys can build a stronger defense by highlighting the lack of causation, exaggeration, malingering, or even providing an alternative explanation for the alleged emotional distress.
However, Psych Document Review is only half of the equation. Forensic Evaluation plays a crucial role in bolstering a defense attorney's defense strategy. A forensic evaluation is conducted by qualified mental health professionals with expertise in assessing emotional distress claims in a legal context. These evaluations help determine the psychological impact, authenticity, and severity of alleged emotional distress.
During the Forensic Evaluation process, the mental health expert leverages their knowledge of criteria for diagnosing mental health conditions, evaluates the claimant's testimonies, and conducts thorough assessments to ensure credibility. This evaluation provides an objective analysis, allowing defense attorneys to effectively challenge exaggerated or fabricated claims of emotional distress, ultimately weakening the opposing side's case.
Incorporating Psych Document Review and Forensic Evaluation into a defense strategy is a game-changer for defense attorneys facing frivolous emotional distress claims. By unearthing crucial evidence, inconsistencies, and expert evaluations, defense attorneys can dismantle such claims, protect their clients reputations, and ensure a fair, just legal process.
In conclusion, defense attorneys can greatly benefit by incorporating mental health document review and forensic evaluation when defending against frivolous claims of emotional distress. This strategic approach equips attorneys with valuable insights, evidence, and expert opinions that can effectively challenge the authenticity, severity, or causation of such claims, ultimately leveling the playing field in the courtroom and ensuring the best possible outcome for their clients.