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Chicago Personal Injury Blog

Can a Language Barrier Lead to Medical Malpractice?

by Jared Staver in Medical Malpractice

Many U.S. residents are not fluent in English and will require medical treatment at some point in their lives. If they are unable to provide a healthcare provider with their symptoms and previous medical history and cannot understand what their healthcare provider is saying, they will not be able to receive the high quality of care they deserve.

Those who are not fluent in English could become a victim of medical malpractice, especially if they do not have a professional interpreter by their side while conversing with a healthcare provider. If you believe the language barrier of you or your loved one led to medical malpractice, it is in your best interest to contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at .

Language Barriers Can Lead to Communication Problems

Language barriers can lead to communication problems between providers and patients. Some of the most common provider to provider communication issues are miscommunications about the condition of a patient, poor documentation, and failure to read a patient’s medical record.

When it comes to provider and patient communication issues, language barriers often cause inadequate education, unsympathetic responses to a patient’s issues, inadequate informed consent, incomplete follow up directions, a lack of or incorrect information provided to a patient, and an inaccurate diagnosis and treatment.

How to Reduce Medical Malpractice Due to Language Barriers

Healthcare providers are obligated to treat each of their patients with the same level of care and professionalism. A patient should not be put at risk just because they are not fluent in English.

A healthcare provider’s ability to communicate with a patient and vice versa could be the difference between life and death. Therefore, patients who are not fluent in English should do the following to reduce their risk of being a victim of medical malpractice due to a language barrier:

  • Determine if the healthcare facility where they are seeking treatment offers professional interpretation services.
  • Refrain from using family members and friends as translators. They may not be familiar with complex medical terminology and could misinterpret what a healthcare provider is saying.
  • Avoid signing any medical documents until the patient receives them in their native language and can clearly understand them.
  • Ask healthcare providers to speak slowly until a professional interpreter has been provided.

How Healthcare Facilities Can Provide Interpreter Services

In addition to knowing and documenting a patient’s preferred language, healthcare facilities should provide professional interpreter services. Several ways they can do so are to:

  • Hire full or part-time professional interpreters.
  • Hire freelance interpreters.
  • Identify healthcare professionals who are fluent in another language.
  • Opt for a telephone service.

Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered from a preventable medical error as a result of a language barrier and the lack of a professional translator or proper translation, you should call our medical malpractice lawyers right away. We may be able to recover compensation for the damages you or a loved one has experienced.

Contact our attorneys today at for a free consultation.