Role Of Daubert

Before addressing the core issues of assessing for compensation, it is important to consider the standards that should guide psychological assessments in forensic settings. In the US Supreme Court's 1993 decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., it was ruled that admissible evidence needed to satisfy specific scientific standards. Implicit in this ruling was that courts would serve a gate-keeping function by admitting only testimony that was grounded in scientific research. Many people expected that this decision would result in a greater emphasis on scientific justification for psychological evidence in compensation matters. Many features of psychological injury are not amenable to observable or objective assessment. For example, claims of psychological injury involving pain or nightmares rely on claimants' self-reports. This reliance on subjective reports renders many of the alleged damages in psychological

Handbook of Psychology in Legal Contexts, Second Edition Edited by D. Carson and R. Bull. © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

injury vulnerable to ambiguous interpretation. Ensuring that expert testimony adheres to strict scientific standards was seen by many as a crucial step forward in maintaining psychological testimony as a credible form of evidence that would be acceptable in courtrooms.

It appears that the Daubert decision has not influenced how expert evidence is judged as much as was initially expected (for reviews, see Mark, 1999; Shuman and Sales, 1999). Despite the slow change stimulated by the Daubert decision, increasing numbers of jurisdictions are adopting the Daubert decision in evaluating psychological evidence (Goodman-Delahunty, 1997). One of the major contributions that psychologists make in compensation settings is their expertise in synthesising and interpreting scientific data pertaining to psychological injury. Psychologists need to capitalize on this strength by ensuring that their assessments are integrated into current evidence relating to the psychological injury. The probability that one's psychological assessment will be subjected to rigorous scrutiny in the courtroom highlights the need for the assessment to be fully supported by sound empirical findings. This situation raises questions concerning the quality and quantity of relevant evidence to support the psychologist's assessment strategies and conclusions that are drawn from these strategies.

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