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Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim As An ESL Workers

When an injured worker files a Workers’ Compensation claim, the Workers’ Compensation Board may hold a hearing to determine whether the filer is eligible for the benefits he or she seeks. This generally happens when the Workers’ Compensation insurance provider disputes whether the worker was truly injured or that he or she was covered by the Workers’ Compensation policy when the accident occurred. Like any other legal hearing, the claimant needs to be able to understand the other side’s position and prepare his or her case to demonstrate why he or she is eligible for the benefits he or she seeks. When the claimant does not speak English fluently, this can be very difficult.

Study Shows the Lack of ESL Services in Workers’ Compensation Hearings

A recent report prepared by attorneys with the National Center for Law and Economic Justice examined approximately 500 Workers’ Compensation hearings conducted in New York in 2016. In these hearings, 18 percent of claimants needed language interpretation services. Of these cases, close to half did not receive the service they needed. In the hearings where interpretation services were provided, none provided interpretation for the entirety of the hearing. Claimants had to rely on telephone interpretation, which often had poor audio quality and interpreters who were not familiar with Workers’ Compensation terminology.

Changing the Law to Provide Services for Non-English Speaking Claimants

New York is not the only state in the United States with a large immigrant population. In California, where approximately one-quarter of the state’s population was born abroad, Workers’ Compensation claimants are entitled to interpreter services at their depositions, appeals board hearings, medical-legal examinations, and medical treatment appointments if they do not speak English proficiently.

In New York, the Workers’ Protection Coalition is currently calling for law amendments to require interpreters for Workers’ Compensation claimants in various Workers’ Compensation settings, including entire hearings. The Workers’ Protection Coalition consists of law firms, worker groups, union leaders, and community organizations advocating for better access to services for workers in need. One specific recommendation the group makes to lawmakers is to have certified interpreters present at Workers’ Compensation hearings to ensure that no information is lost in translation.

The report discussed how workers in dangerous environments are more likely than those in less physically demanding environments to have low English proficiency, putting them at a greater risk of being injured on the job and needing Workers’ Compensation benefits to cover their medical expenses and other needs while recovering.

Work with an Experienced New York Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, work with an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer to file and pursue your Workers’ Compensation claim. Your lawyer is your advocate, which means that he or she will work to get you the resources and services that you need for your case, including a translator for your hearing. Contact The Robert A. Koenigsberg Law Office today to set up your initial consultation with our firm.

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