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Third-party claims: Role & Contribution of Industrial Psychologists

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

By Caren Swanepoel, Gideon Heyns and Valeske Kelly, Managing Director and Directors of CSIP (Caren Swanepoel Industrial Psychologists), CSIP Heyns and CSIP Kelly. CSIP may be contacted on 067 930 5709 or Visit our website: Linkedin:

Third-party claims, personal injury claims, medico-legal… terms we are all aware of, and some even practice. But what about the various stakeholders and their role in the process? Perhaps understanding the role of the various stakeholders, or experts if you will, will make your job as a Personal Injury Attorney a tad bit easier.

The role of an Industrial Psychologist in the medico-legal field in South Africa can encompass a range of responsibilities and contributions. Industrial Psychologists apply their knowledge of human behaviour and organisational dynamics to various domains, including the intersection between psychology and the law.

In the medico-legal field specifically, Industrial Psychologists may play a significant role in areas such as personal injury claims, third-party claims, RAF cases, workplace accidents, wrongful arrests, divorce matters and medical malpractice cases. Their expertise is sought to evaluate the impact of physical, functional, cognitive or psychological impairments holistically on an individual's ability to work and earn an income.

An overview of the Industrial Psychologist's role and how they contribute to this field:

1. Assessing Earnings Capacity

Industrial Psychologists use their knowledge of human behaviour, workplace dynamics, and occupational functioning to assess an individual's employment and earnings potential. A person's family background, socio-economic circumstances, level of education, qualifications, work experience, skill set, industry trends and the South African economy are all factored in to determine an individual's potential career trajectory and earning capacity. An industrial Psychologist follows a typical "but for" and "having regard for" an incident approach, determining the career and income potential had the incident/injury not occurred and now that the incident/injury occurred.

2. Expert knowledge

Industrial Psychologists study, analyse and understand human behaviour in the workplace and specifically how this relates to their functioning in the workplace and how various businesses, organisations and entities work. Having knowledge of both the individual and business, allows them to assess and clarify the holistic impact of an incident or injury on the person's workplace functioning, work performance, job fit, promotability and ability to work until retirement. Their knowledge of human behaviour and workplace psychology allows them to identify potential barriers or limitations that may affect an individual's employability. These insights help bridge the gap between legal proceedings and the complexities of human experiences.

3. Collaborative Approach

Industrial Psychologists work closely with other professionals involved in medico-legal cases, such as medical doctors (Orthopaedic Surgeons, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Ophthalmologists, etc.), functional experts (Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Biokineticits, etc.), Psychologists (Educational- and Clinical Psychologists). The Industrial Psychologist gather relevant information from each respective expert and their scope of practice to form a final conclusion regarding the holistic impact of an incident/injury. From a physical, psychological and cognitive perspective, the Industrial Psychologist then provides accurate and well-researched postulations of a past and future loss of earnings, forming the basis of the claim that can be used in legal proceedings.

4. Comprehensive Reports and Recommendations

Industrial Psychologists are skilled at generating detailed reports based on their assessments and research. These reports provide a comprehensive understanding of the individual involved, including background information, socio-economic circumstances, medical history, level of education, qualifications, work experience and skill set to create a basis and validation for a possible career path. The expert then gains an understanding, via the input from respective experts, of the impact of an incident/injury on a person and their ability to work and earn an income. They also offer recommendations for appropriate interventions, treatment, workplace adaptions, career guidance and alternative career paths suitable to their post-incident condition.

5. Expert Testimony

Industrial Psychologists often serve as expert witnesses in medico-legal cases. They provide objective and evidence-based assessments of the individual's earning capacity and the impact of the injury on their ability to work. Their testimony helps inform legal decisions regarding compensation for earnings loss.

6. Enhanced Case Preparation

The involvement of Industrial Psychologists can significantly enhance the quality of case preparation. By understanding the impact of workplace incidents, accidents or medical negligence on an individual's employment and earnings capacity, legal professionals can better strategise their approach, gather relevant evidence, and present a stronger case. Industrial Psychologists can contribute valuable insights and assist in developing effective legal arguments. By working together, they can present a more comprehensive and well-rounded case. As such, Industrial Psychologists form an integral part of these legal proceedings in order to help quantify a claim.

7. Ethical Considerations

Medico-legal cases often involve sensitive personal information. The collaboration between Industrial Psychologists and legal professionals ensures that ethical considerations are upheld throughout the process. They can work together to protect the rights and well-being of the individuals involved, maintaining confidentiality and ensuring that assessments and findings are conducted ethically and within legal boundaries.

8. Improved Outcomes

The collaboration between Industrial Psychologists and legal professionals ultimately contributes to improved outcomes in medico-legal cases. Legal professionals can make more informed decisions, negotiate fair settlements, and advocate for appropriate compensation for the damage/impairments suffered by individuals. This collaboration increases the likelihood of achieving just and equitable resolutions.

In summary, the relationship between Industrial Psychologists and the legal profession in the medico-legal industry in South Africa is vital for effective case preparation, understanding the impact of incidents on the individual, and ensuring the well-being of individuals involved. By working together, they can provide a comprehensive approach that addresses both the legal and human aspects of medico-legal cases, leading to fair and just outcomes.

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Lexinfo CC.

Posted: 30 June 2023

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