A Simple Statement with Hidden Consequences
Would you categorize this quote from an injured worker as a red flag?
“There is no need to send a professional interpreter to the doctor’s office because my son is going to come and he can translate.”
There is a common misconception that anyone who is bilingual can provide a word-for-word translation in the respective languages. While this misconception holds some truth, a professional interpreter goes beyond word-for-word translation. Professional interpreters are appropriately trained in their respective fields. In workers’ compensation, for example, they receive legal and medical terminology training. Professional interpreters also take cultural and socioeconomic factors into consideration to better relay the information.
Bottom line: In claims, the statement above is a red flag. In fact, it’s always a red flag when family members get involved in translation services and may result in hidden consequences.
Bring a family member to appointments for emotional support, not as the interpreter.
Susan Emerson, former WC Manager for Delta Airlines, has witnessed many claims go the wrong direction when family members want to serve as a translator. While prepping for MTI’s upcoming speaking session at WCI, she shared several observations:
- Family members have a personal and emotional attachment and may introduce implicit bias.
- Family members do not want to upset their family members or be the bearers of bad news which may lead to the withholding of information or sugar-coating.
- Family members may add their own opinion or spin their own message.
- Family members may not understand medical or legal terminology.
Ben Leonard, Managing Partner at Cipriani and Werner, noted the importance of accurate communication for diagnosis and treatment plans and strongly encouraged the use of a qualified medical interpreter to combat this red flag. The same holds true regarding legal interpretation. Legal interpretation is very complex, and an impartial legal interpreter would deliver the message clearly and precisely. If this red flag is not addressed, miscommunications and misunderstandings will likely add time and expense to your claims.
Involving a professional interpreter for any claims involving parties with limited English proficiency will help claims professionals avoid red flags.