Lawyers Weekly interviewed Leesburg, Loudoun and Fairfax workers comp lawyer Doug Landau yesterday to comment on whether translators should be provided at injured workers doctors’ appointments. The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission ("VWC") Landau noted that he has represented clients who were here legally as Circus workers, apple pickers, etc, who spoke Russian, Arabic, Pakistani, Spanish, Bulgarian, Creole and French and who could not always find a physician who could converse with them in their native tongue. Furthermore, not every medical practice has staff that speak foreign tongues. When the Insurance company refuses to pay for a translator, Landau has seen problems arise for clients of other law firms. These include:
1. Going without a translator, misunderstanding the Health Care Providers’ instructions and making their health worse; or
2. Attending the doctor’s appointment with a friend, whose command of the English language may not be strong, and ending up worse off; or
3. Bringing a family member, usually a child who has some English proficiency, but no familiarity with medical terminology, and undoing the efforts of the medical care.
A ruling by the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission (the "VWC")
now makes it clear that the insurance company has top pay for a translator where the injured employee does not speak English and the doctor and doctor’s staff does not have an appropriate translator available.
In the decision,
, the judge wrote:
The Commission has long held that the employer is responsible for the cost of the claimant’s transportation to obtain medical treatment. The employer is required under the Act to furnish, free of charge, necessary medical attention related to a compensable injury… This includes reimbursement for transportation costs in connection with medical treatment. In this instance, the services of a translator, like medical transportation, facilitate the claimant’s receipt of medical treatment required by Code 65.2-603. The lack of a qualified translator prevents the claimant from receiving the medical treatment he is entitled to receive and the employer is required to provide.
…while the services of an interpreter are not specifically "medical attention"… they are analogous to requirements that access to medical treatment must be provided. Accordingly, the employer is ordered to either provide the services of an interpreter at appointments with the doctor or provide the claimant and his physician with a panel list of three Spanish speaking physicians who can provide the test recommended by his treating physician and any recommended reasonable and necessary ongoing treatment.