The Role a Neuropsychologist Plays in Evaluating a Brain Injury

Doctor Looking at Brain ScansWhen you suffer a brain injury two things occur. First, there is a physical injury to the neurons of the brain which disrupts your normal brain communication pathways. In other words, it changes how your brain normally works.  Second, brain damage essentially changes the very essence of who we are as individuals because it can affect your memory, word recall, personality, perception, energy and a host of other personal traits.

Brain injuries are typically diagnosed by a neurologist using a variety of neurological tests as well as their clinical diagnosis. Those tests may include MRI, SPECT scan, CT scan and others. Medical professionals make a clinical diagnosis by observing and questioning the patient and close family members about problems the patient is having which may be related to brain damage.

What to Expect from a Visit with a Neuropsychologist

Neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists who study the science of brain processes and behaviors. Their role is to diagnose the degree of cognitive impairment resulting from brain injury diagnosed by the neurologist. Cognitive impairment can affect memory, perception, recognition, word finding and a host of other functions. Neuropsychologists use their specialized training of how each part of the brain functions and how brain injuries impact those functions. They assess the full measure of the new limitations of the patient after the injury and develop treatment plans to help them compensate for what they’ve lost.

A neuropsychologist employs a wide battery of neuropsychological testing. A typical patient may spend a day or more with the neuropsychologist taking a battery of tests. Each test is designed to identify and measure the amount of damage done to a particular area of the patient’s brain function. They also take a very detailed history from the patient as well as those who may be closest to the patient in order to become aware of how the injury is affecting their life.

Quite often, a neuropsychologist will meet with the patient within the first year following the injury and do a comprehensive evaluation including testing. Ideally, they will have an opportunity to schedule the second round of a detailed clinical interview and a repeat of the testing after the passage of enough time to determine whether the brain has begun the process of healing. Repeat testing could be done a year or longer after the initial evaluation.

How a Visit with a Neurpsychologist Helps a Brain Injury Case

The neuropsychologist typically prepares a very detailed report at the end of their evaluation which discusses their observations of the patient’s clinical status, a detailed discussion of each of the tests administered and the results obtained. They commonly express their results in terms of a percentage of the brain physical, mental, and emotional functioning which has been lost because of the injury.

Neuropsychologists play an important role in evaluating brain injuries because they explain the effect of the injury on how the victim lives in the real world and the losses that they have sustained in their ability to function normally. Brain injuries often take away a person’s identity and self-worth, change their relationships with others, affect their ability to work and earn a living and often strip them of their independence. The neuropsychologist helps identify and measure the degree of impairment of brain function causing these changes.

The role of the neuropsychologist is to work with the medical diagnosis by the neurologist and explain how the injury affects the person as a whole and their ability to live, enjoy life, have normal relationships and earn a living. Their role is invaluable for your lawyer to demonstrate the extent of the injury and how it will affect the person’s life going forward. It is part of the process of making sure an insurance company or a jury understands the full picture of the loss sustained by the patient after a brain injury.

If you or a loved one is dealing with cognitive impairment after a car, bicycle, pedestrian or other accident, speak to a medical professional about your concerns, and then call us to speak with an experienced brain injury attorney.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.