Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What Happens in a Psychiatric Medical Examination

    There are times when my clients are required to attend an "Independent Psychiatric Examination."   This does not happen often because I prefer to present my clients' losses in human as opposed to psychiatric terms.

     Here is what happens at a psychiatric examination.  After reviewing all medical records and the client's deposition, the psychiatrist or psychologist conducts their own "interview."   In that interview, the psychiatrist asks any question the psychiatrist wishes to ask.  Basically, it is a second deposition for the defense.  In a recent psychiatric exam, the "interview" lasted 6 hours with the first 30 minutes devoted to my client's childhood before the age of 5.

   Following the interview, the psychiatrist will prepare a report as to their opinions.  With the report not based on any objective data, the opinions of the psychiatrist are purely subjective.  The reports tend to be as verbose as the psychiatrist.

   With this background, clients should understand why it is that I choose to avoid psychiatric/psychological testimony if possible to present their harms and losses. Juries have trouble understanding this evidence in the first place and presenting your case based on this evidence entitles the defense to have the psychiatrist of their choice conduct the 6 hour interview.  The exceptions to this Rule involve cases of severe head injury or instances in which the client, himself, has been forced to seek psychological treatment.

   When the client is required to attend a psychiatric examination at the request of the Defendant, what do I do to protect the client.  The first thing I do is attend with the client.  Being present allows me to protect against abuses of the system, e.g., not allowing clients to take bathroom breaks, preventing improper questions into subjects like conversations between clients and lawyers.  The second thing I do is to make certain that the client knows that questions can be asked on just about any subject matter.  Finally, I make certain that the client understands their case and where psychological testimony will be important.  It is not unusual for this preparation to take mulitple meetings lasting several hours.

   The psychological examination is unpleasant for the client but the goal is always for the client to present themselves properly.  You always have to play your hand smartly.  See