The vital role of interpreters and translators in personal injury cases

Whether the case involves an accident or illness occurring overseas to an English speaker, or a foreign national being injured or treated in the UK, translation and interpreting often play a vital role in a personal injury or medical negligence claim.

Interpreters and translators may be needed at all stages of a claim, including:

  • Initial client/counsel contact;
  • Translation of medical reports and assessments, witness statements and affidavits;
  • Subsequent client meetings;
  • Examination for discovery; and
  • Trial

Where the injured party does not speak English as their native language, they may find the legal process daunting, and it is therefore vital to ensure good, open communication with the help and support of professional translators and interpreters in order to develop and build a good level of trust and confidence which may be lacking in their dealings with other professionals.

The effective use of qualified linguists, ideally those belonging to the appropriate professional organisations, will assist counsel in working through the language barrier and in avoiding misunderstandings and confusion. Otherwise, the foreign personal injury claimant risks losing the opportunity to obtain a fair settlement or court award and becoming a victim a second time.

Doctors viewing x-ray with patient - ABC Translations


A point to bear in mind is that while an interpreter may competently speak and interpret a particular language, a client may be reluctant to speak to someone from a different country or region, or of a different ethnic or religious background. In these cases a good translation agency will help choose the most suitable interpreter, to ensure that the client’s ability to speak frankly with the interpreter or comfortably convey his or her emotions and feelings is not hindered by such differences. Cultural values can also impact the choice of linguist. For example, a female client may feel uncomfortable being alone with both a male lawyer and a male interpreter. And gender can be a consideration when providing interpreters for medical assessments and examinations.

In the event of accident or illness occurring overseas to an English speaker, accurate translation of police reports, hospital records and witness statements is vital in order to assess and prepare a claim for personal injury or medical negligence. Because of the specialized vocabulary used in medical records and assessments, it is essential that they are translated by professionals with both linguistic and medical expertise. And should a claim proceed to court, any translations produced will need to be suitably certified, and a professional translation agency will be able to ensure that this is carried out appropriately.

Case studies

Just as every personal injury claim is different, translating and interpreting needs vary on a case by case basis. However, the case studies below cover many of the usual aspects that we at ABC Translations encounter on a regular basis.

Italian Medical Negligence Claim

This particular claim involved a young Italian woman who suffered disfigurement to her right leg with limb length discrepancy and secondary functional problems as a consequence of negligence arising during a heart operation in a UK hospital when she was 6 years old. The case involved:

  • Translations of correspondence
  • Translations of affidavits from the claimant and her family
  • Translations of medical reports
  • Translation of occupational therapist report
  • Supply of interpreter in the UK for medical appointments
  • Supply of interpreter in Italy to assist occupational therapist

Road Traffic Collision in Denmark

As a result of a road traffic collision in Denmark, the client was paralysed from the chest down, and the claim for loss of ability to work, loss of earnings, health expenses, travel costs, accommodation, pain and suffering, and permanent injury involved:

  • Translations of pay slips, invoices and other financial documentation
  • Translations of court orders
  • Translations of police incident reports
  • Translations of insurance company documentation
  • Translations of medical records and hospital reports
  • Translations of witness statements and exhibits

Interpreters and translators are an important resource in meeting the challenges in cases of accident or illness overseas or where claimants are non-English speakers, and careful and effective use of qualified individuals throughout the litigation process can facilitate the pursuit, and defence, of personal injury claims. Learn more about our Interpreting services and legal translation.

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