Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 334–347 | Cite as

Professional and Ethical Challenges in Determinations of Causality of Psychological Disability



Psychologists serving as Qualified Medical Examiners (QMEs) in settings where mental and emotional damage claims (i.e., psychological disability stemming from psychological injury) are involved typically must comment not only upon the impact of the injury on the individual’s functioning and quality of life, but also on the causality of the psychological disability. This is a highly specialized endeavor for which little guidance exists. The disparate conceptualizations of causality in the fields of psychology and law and the unavoidable complexities associated with determining causality, especially the apportionment of causality across industrial and non-industrial factors, are discussed. The questions at the core of the present paper are: 1) What are the ethical challenges facing psychologists working as QMEs who are tasked with determining causality of psychological disability in the ways currently required by the law, and 2) What considerations should guide ethically-minded psychologists in such settings? The authors argue that, although some level of subjectivity is unavoidable, psychologists working within the legal system can take the lead in bringing an evidence-based approach and greater scientific rigor to the high-stakes causal evaluations required as a basis for determining compensation for injured workers.


Ethics Workers’ compensation Causality Apportionment Psychological injury Psychological disability 



The authors would like to thank Sarah Mills, M.S., M.P.H., and three additional reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions that contributed to improving the final version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical PsychologySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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