Lesson 32: No translator has ever been sued, so translator’s professional indemnity insurance is a waste of money
I’m generally a healthy person. But just because I haven’t broken anything yet, I won’t give up my medical cover. Why? I could save so much money every month! Or take a car. If you haven’t had an accident yet, why on Earth would you pay for your insurance? Same with translation. If no-one ever heard of a translator being sued, it means that it will never happen and we don’t need any translator’s professional indemnity insurance. Logical, isn’t it?
Well, not really. This fallacious thinking could be dangerous in case of our health, or car, or even translation. However, a shocking number of translators use this precise argument: if it hasn’t happened to anyone, it means that it never will.
Here are my arguments why we should get professional indemnity insurance.
Peace of mind
First and foremost, we don’t want to be even more stressed. At least we know that whatever happens, we’re covered. Apparently, a lot of interpreters strongly believe that professional indemnity is essential. Why? Because if they participate in multi-million negotiations they simply wouldn’t be able to sleep properly for a couple of days after the assignment.
No-one (hopefully) makes mistakes on purpose. But we have to accept the fact that we’re just humans and something can go wrong. In that case, it is our responsibility to react and redress the loss. For the very same reasons building owners are insured against falling tiles. Nothing they can take control over, but they accept their responsibility.
Lost documents and confidentiality
Imagine that you’re translated the file, and your laptop was stolen overnight. You’re not able to re-translate the files within the deadline. Offer an apology, but you’d better be covered in case of serious problems. Confidentiality is becoming more of an issue as well, especially with Google and ever-present indexing. Why take the risks?
I specialise in law and business, and I know that my insurance is an added value for my clients. In terms of working with law firms, they do start co-operation with asking you for insurance. During one of business courses I attended I’ve been told that anyone who would like to provide professional services should get insurance. Good practice!
We’re all trying to figure out how to be better than our competitors, and how to attract more clients. I thought that if I had a choice between an insured accountant and one without any cover (can they do that, by the way?), I wouldn’t hesitate for too long. And I have a feeling that some direct clients may think the same in terms of translation.
Insurance seems to be an important issue if you work for direct clients. But what about agencies? We would like to assume that if we work for an agency, it will be its responsibility when things go wrong. But this is not always the case. Some agencies, in their terms and conditions or agreements, include a part where they cunningly shift the responsibility to get insurance on their “suppliers” (meaning: translators). If we’re dealing with more honest agencies, they will require their translators to be insured openly and overtly. And some agencies don’t care.
For further reading, here’s a link to a blog post on this topic by the Translation Journal and an academic article on the translator’s responsibilities and liability in the Journal of Specialised Translation.
What are your views? Have you ever heard of a translator being sued? Do you think that insurance is necessary? Do you need to have insurance in your country?