Legal Document Translation, and Waiving Liability in a Foreign Language

Liability Waiver Translation Service

Foreign language legal document translation services play an important role in insurance law, as well as in domestic and in cross-border litigation. It’s not uncommon for an insured party to receive a reservation of rights letter from one’s insurer. Similarly, a limitation of liability coverage is a standard clause in insurance agreements and other business contracts. However, just because they are there and the client signed on the dotted line does not mean they are enforceable. That is especially true when the insured speaks a foreign language, and is not fluent in English.

State law governs the enforceability of all forms of limitations on liability. A review of state codes and judicial decisions shows there are several standards applicable to all jurisdictions. For example, minors cannot release liability. Further, any language in the liability waiver that goes beyond what is allowed under state law is not enforceable.

Of specific interest to our topic is the common thread that holds any type of limitation on liability unenforceable, if the client was unable to understand the terms of the release. Thus, if the client is a foreign language speaker and a foreign language translation of the release is not provided – and signed – then the waiver is unenforceable. This remains true in the reverse situation, when a waiver of liability is written in a foreign language (as when the contract involves a foreign entity) the terms must be translated – and signed – in the client’s language.

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