It is no secret that our country continues to be a melting pot of citizens from different countries, continents, and ethnicities. Even in the Midwest, it is not hard to find some place where we can hear people speaking different languages. However, it can be a daunting thought to be trapped in the process the American legal system when you do not speak the language of the courts (English). Furthermore, there are other hurdles for non-citizens and non-English speaking individuals when trying to make sure they can get all of their needs met through the process of a personal injury claim, all the way from medical treatment to attorney counseling to courtroom interpreting.
One of the most important aspects to a personal injury incident is seeking out medical treatment for whatever injury there happens to be. Also, one of the most overlooked aspects is making sure you continue to get treatment if the doctor orders so that insurance companies do not assume you really were not injured. Thankfully, for non-citizens and non-English speaking individuals, many hospitals and medical treatment facilities offer 24-hour interpreter services. Barnes Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital are just two of the major local hospitals to offer such services to insure the needs are met of those who do not speak fluent English. Communication is essential in getting full and proper medical treatment and by knowing what places offer these interpreters, someone who is injured can insure they not only get care, but feel comfortable and confident in getting that care.
As far as communicating with attorneys, there are companies that offer over-the-phone interpreters who can make sure non-English speakers understand everything going on with your personal injury case. While these services are not free, they are by no means expensive and are a valuable tool in making sure the attorney can fully understand all the troubles a person has had to endure as a result of your injury, thus making sure a person can get the right compensation.
The court system is the final hurdle for a non-citizen or non-English speaker. However, in Missouri one need not fear as under Missouri law, courts must appoint a qualified foreign language interpreter in all legal proceedings in which a non-English speaking person is a party or a witness (Section 476.803.1, RSMo). All a person or attorney must do is advise the court directly when services are needed so that they have adequate time to schedule qualified service providers. To assist the courts in providing qualified interpreters, a certification program based on the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Consortium for Language Access in the Courts was implemented in 2000. Courts are encouraged to use certified interpreters who are impartial and unbiased, and who will render a complete and accurate interpretation of the proceedings.
Being injured is a scary experience, but so is feeling lost in a language barrier when trying to figure out how to deal with it. By having attorneys who know what services are out there to bridge the gaps between non-English speakers and the English-speaking American legal system and medical treatment systems, those who speak no English, or speak it as a second language, can be a little less scared and a lot more reassured their needs will be met.