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The challenges for non-English speakers at the time of personal injury cases

Accidents are stressful events that can lead to property damage or loss as well as personal injuries. Trying to know what to do after an accident that was not your fault as well as navigating one’s way through an insurance claim or a personal injury claim can be challenging enough for a native English language speaker, but the task is made more daunting again if the injured victim is a non-English speaker or has limited English language fluency. Unless the accident victim can communicate effectively with insurance adjusters, medical personnel, lawyers and other professionals it is quite possible that compensation that might rightfully be won on their behalf may not eventuate.

What is the role of a medical interpreter in a personal injury case?

Medical interpreters have an important role to play whenever a non-English speaking individual is injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligent actions. In ordinary circumstances, the injured victim should be able to seek financial compensation as a result of their injuries (as well as any property damage). The exact procedure varies from country to country and in some cases province to province or state to state.

Lawyer–client meetings

It is often difficult enough for any victim of an accident which was not their fault to negotiate a satisfactory settlement without the help of a lawyer. A medical interpreter has a role to play at lawyer-client meetings in the initial phase of a personal injury claim when usually the lawyer is able to assess the circumstances of the accident and give an opinion about the chances of success if a claim is pursued. It is vital that accurate information is provided to the lawyer so that he or she can provide a realistic assessment of what could be claimed and what supporting evidence of a medical or other form should be sought to help the claim.

Medical assessments

A medical assessment is necessary for any claim to be validated. The assessment can be made by the client’s doctor or medical personnel at a medical centre, hospital, or specialist diagnostic facility. The more serious and long term the injury, the more important that an assessment is made to formulate exactly how much treatment will cost. Again, the medical interpreter will be needed to ensure that dialogue between the client and medical professionals is accurate.

Form filling

There are inevitably quite a number of forms to fill in. The initial insurance claim will involve at least one form to be filled in, depending on the insurer and the local personal injury rules. The lawyer will want forms to be filled in if the case is pursued. In many countries, personal injury lawyers tend to offer a contingency fee arrangement, which means that any fee owed to the lawyer is only paid after a case has been won by the lawyer.

Settlement negotiations

If the lawyer takes on the case, then the next step would be to obtain enough documentation to help persuade the insurer of the negligent party accept the claim or at least settle the claim through negotiation. The majority of such claims that have already gone through the acceptance stage by a personal injury lawyer are usually settled without having to go to a trial, although most lawyers will be prepared to take it to trial if the supporting evidence is strong enough.

The settlement negotiations will normally involve one or meetings between the plaintiff and the defendant’s insurer and respective lawyers. Because in this case, the plaintiff is not able to communicate effectively in English, it is important that a medical interpreter is present throughout negotiations where the client must be present so any questions posed can be answered effectively.


Trials are not necessary in most personal injury cases unless the circumstances are contentious. The plaintiff will have to attend the trial so a medical interpreter would be needed to help relay questions and answers during the trial.


In the event that communication is difficult in a personal injury case because of a plaintiff not being fluent in English, ensure you hire a professional medical interpreting or translation service.