The Difference Between a Forensic and
There are significant differences between these two
types of evaluations, including: the referral source, the goal of the
evaluation, the examiner/examinees relationship, the role of the
examiner, the ethical principles that guide the evaluation, the scope of
the evaluation, the content of the completed report, and the payment
source for the evaluation. In general:
A clinical assessment is used to drive diagnosis and
treatment planning. This is considered to be medically necessary and can
be billed to insurance.
A forensic assessment answers questions for a Court,
government agency, employer, or an attorney, and CANNOT be billed to
insurance. Either the ordering party (attorney, Court) or the examinee
(injured party) pays for the evaluation.
Completed for legal purposes to determine the
facts under question in a legal matter. These reports are generally more
extensive and detailed than a clinical report. They incorporate a
greater amount of collateral (third party) information and may involve
police reports, employment records, legal records, etc. The emphasis is
on providing an expert opinion for the Court or Trier of Fact and
answering specific questions. Treatment recommendations are generally
not provided as the examiner is not the examinee's doctor
Completed for medical purposes to assist in the diagnosis and treatment planning. These reports are generally shorter and more technical as they are written for the purpose of communicating with other treatment providers. It is not usually necessary to review extensive records other than the relevant medical records. No expert opinion statement(s) are made and no legal issues are addressed. (An exception to this would be competency/guardianship cases where patient safety is a concern.) A clinical psychologist role cannot be later converted to a forensic psychologist as the focus of the evaluation was different and the doctor/patient relationship has been established.
attorney will order an Independent Medical Examination from a forensically
trained expert to serve as the expert witness in the case. The examiner can give an expert opinion
regarding causation, severity, or veracity of an examinee’s symptoms or injury.
The examiner is expected to be unbiased and neutral, have no financial stake in
the outcome of the case, and does not form a therapeutic or “helping”
relationship with the examinee. The referring source is the client and owns the
rights to the report; therefore, it is not given to the examinee and there is
no expectation of confidentiality.
A doctor/patient relationship is
established and therefore the doctor is biased as they often advocate for their
patient. Confidentiality applies and the patient’s self-report is frequently
the primary (and sometimes only) information the clinician relies on for
diagnosis and treatment planning. If a treating doctor is deposed or asked to
testify in a legal matter, their testimony is usually limited to testifying as
a Fact Witness. They cannot offer an expert opinion or serve as an expert