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Posted by: David G on 04/15/2015

Unique Challenges of Spanish Speakers When Injured

Unique Challenges of Spanish Speakers When Injured

It is never an easy task recovering from an accident, but one group in particular that has an even greater road to recovery then most is those who do not speak English.  According to wikipedia, Spanish is the second most popular language in the United States, and has over 45 million people within its borders who speak the language.  So naturally, Spanish speakers tend to be the largest group that faces this difficult road after an accident.

 

Many people who speak Spanish prefer to get their insurance through a local agent who either speaks Spanish, or at least shares some cultural connection with them.  The problem is that following an accident, the local agent has very little to do with the claims process.  Insurance companies have separate adjusters assigned to handling claims, often who are in an office far away, and have little connection to the people the company insures, or the agent that signed the insured up to the policy.  The hope is that the local agent can try to explain things, but there are times when they do not have access to the relevant claim information, and are left in the dark.

 

This is also making the assumption that the injured is dealing with their own insurance company, which is often not the case if you are not at fault in an accident.  With auto accidents, as long as the other party had insurance at the time of the incident, you will be dealing with their company to settle the case.  For dog bites, slip and falls, we then turn to the homeowner’s policy, commercial policy, etc, of the person who caused or is responsible for the accident.  The third party insurance companies have an interest in getting the claim settled as quickly as possible, they want it off their books, moved along, and closed out as cheaply as possible.  They have little responsibility or reason to help protect the person their insured injured. So, it is to their disadvantage to explain everything in great detail, and confirm that the injured Spanish speaking party fully understands their rights.  Regardless of language, the insurance will do whatever they can to get a claim closed.  If a person does not completely understand the process, or can not understand what they are being told, they are at risk of loosing out on treatment or money that is owed to them.  The most common issue to occur under this scenario is the injured party unknowingly signing a release (a signed document that “releases” the insurance company and their insured from future liability in return for monetary compensation) for a minimal amount of money.  Then later on they realize their injury is much worse then they thought, they attempt to get additional treatment, and additional money for pain and suffering, but can not go back to the at-fault insurance because they already signed the release.  Unfortunately, once the release is signed there is little that can be done.

 

The other hurdle to overcome for Spanish speakers in accidents is the treatment portion.  This is extremely important as the medical records are your evidence describing what happened to you and the injuries you suffered.  Anything can be submitted to the insurance to try and settle a case, but without evidence, it will not be considered.  The first part of obtaining this evidence is finding a doctor who the injured party can communicate with and fully understand.  It is extremely important to make sure that the person hurt relays exactly where their injuries are, pain level, when the pain started (the insurance could try to say the injury was a pre-existing condition if the doctor is not clear in his notes that it was caused by the accident), and what other medical treatment they have received for it.  It is also important to understand and follow the doctor’s orders exactly.  If an injured person does not follow the doctors orders, the insurance adjuster may argue that they must not have been very hurt, or didn’t take their treatment very seriously if the doctors orders are ignored.  So, if there is a language barrier, communicating and understanding all of this to the doctor can be a major problem.  Our site is a supporter of bilingual chiropractors and those who cater to the spanish community, so be sure to check their profile as it will often be listed.  So if you are in need of a spanish speaking chiropractor, be sure to search our network. 

 

Similar issues can arise when hiring a lawyer.  While there are lawyers who cater to the latin community, many of the actual lawyers do not speak Spanish.  They have staff that is fluent in Spanish, which generally works well, but can still lead to some of the previously mentioned problems.  It is very important that if you only speak Spanish, or do not speak English well, that you find a doctor, and if needed, an attorney who you are comfortable with, and can easily communicate with.  If you need to talk to several different doctors and lawyers before you choose one, that is ok, and absolutely recommended.

 

The final issue that causes great difficulty to both English and non-English speakers is the lack of health insurance.  Health insurance is your ticket in to treatment for your injury regardless of the circumstance.  While not having it is a difficult situation for anybody, it is even tougher for Spanish speakers to navigate around and overcome it.  What many people do not understand is that even if another party is at fault for your accident, they have insurance coverage, and the insurance has accepted fault, they are still not going to pay for you to go to treatment.  Their only obligation is to at some point reimburse the injured for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering.  That means that when you initially go to see the doctor, it is your responsibility to pay.  Some doctors understand how the process works, and will see a patient without payment up front.  This includes many of the chiropractors listed on our site.  But many doctors and medical providers will not, making it even more difficult to find a suitable doctor if you only speak Spanish.  Hospitals sometimes often have programs to help injured people out in this situation, offering charity writeoffs, and various other programs.  But again, not speaking English can have a huge impact on finding and getting accepted in to these programs.

 

If somebody is injured in an accident and only speaks Spanish, or has limited English speaking skills, it is highly recommended to take the above advice and precautions for them to protect themselves and their interests.  The insurance companies are going to try and settle the claim as quickly as possible regardless of what is in the injured person’s best interest.  English and Spanish speakers alike need to take every precaution to make sure they get exactly what their claim is worth.  The chiropractors in our network, especially those who speak spanish, would be more then happy to help if it is within their expertise. 

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