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Translating legal documents
Thread poster: haitch
haitch
Local time: 07:09
German to English
Sep 30, 2004

If I translate a contract and somebody gets financially damaged as a result of signing that contract, can I be made liable for damage claims? Whether or not I make translation errors? I'm not a lawyer, nor do I have any legal training and I'm only just starting out as a freelance translator and I hate doing these things because it worries me that there might be repurcussions

Thanks


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LindaMcM  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:09
Swedish to German
+ ...
That's why I... Sep 30, 2004

That's why I refuse doing legal translations...

I'm also not a lawyer and I don't know if and how you can be made liable for those kind of errors - I'm sure someone with respective experience will give you a proper answer - but if you have no experiences in the legal field I would refuse doing this kind of work...

Actually, I would advise you not to take any job you don't feel well with...


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:09
German to English
+ ...
THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE! Sep 30, 2004

If you do something wrong (and could have helped it) and someone else suffers damages as a result, there will almost always be a way (for an attorney) to make you liable for the damages you caused (regardless of the field).

Always try to do your best, don't get in over your head and you'll be fine. But if you're looking for ways to ease your mind, you could consider the following steps:

1. Consult an attorney you trust (afterwards it is almost always too late);

2. Get insurance coverage (it might get expensive if your not qualified to do what you're doing);

3. Negotiate a clause in your contract that excludes your liability (this can be difficult in some cases and it doesn't always help once the case goes to court, but it might discourage some from going that far in the first place);

4. Stick to translating subjects that you are comfortable with (this is a BIG ONE - I don't want to discourage you, but I've studied law, been translating legal texts for some time now and I still find legal translations among the most difficult... they contain many false friends. Are you really up for it? Are you aware of the nuances in legal terminology on both sides of the fence? These are all questions I think you need to ask yourself).

Good luck!

[Edited at 2004-09-30 21:47]


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xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:09
Russian
+ ...
no fault - no liability Oct 1, 2004

I am also not a lawyer, but it is obvious that a translator can be held liable only for mistakes in his work - translation. In translation contracts you can frequently see clauses holding the translator liable for his translation mistakes - and any mistakes and damages that might follow as a consequence, which may appear logical, but can amount to more than the translation was worth. You need to consult a lawyer knowledgeable in the field as to how to treat these clauses.

As to mistakes or misunderstandings between the contracting parties regarding anything in the contract that was NOT the result of your specific translation mistake, that cannot be your liability.


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 09:09
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
For instance, you could insert Oct 1, 2004

Derek Gill wrote:

2. Get insurance coverage (it might get expensive if your not qualified to do what you're doing);

3. Negotiate a clause in your contract that excludes your liability (this can be difficult in some cases and it doesn't always help once the case goes to court, but it might discourage some from going that far in the first place);

[Edited at 2004-09-30 21:47]


For instance, you could insert (upon a consent by parties thereto) a clause as follows:

'This Contract is executed in ... copies in [Source Language] and [Target Language]. In case of any dispute related to or arisen from this Contract, the [Source Language] copy should prevail'.

Please note that the clause above may serve only as an example and could be subject to whatsoever amendments.

Regards,

Levan


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Seadeta Osmani  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 07:09
English to Croatian
+ ...
Be careful... Oct 1, 2004

A few months ago I received an offer for proofreading of a legal document (contract). I also received original in English, "just in case of any clarification". Estimate of proofreading was 4-5 hours. Well... First couple of pages managed to confuse me, and when comparing them to English original, I almost fainted! Then I asked the Client if they were sure they delievered the right source and target document, and they confirmed.

What can I say?? The difference between the source and target language documents was huge! The translator merely read an article, then interpreted it in his/her own way not being aware of correct meanings of basic legal terms, then translated it shuffling and shortening key issues here and there, like he/she was telling the short version (quite a wrong one!) of the contract to a friend met accidentally on the street. I told the Client that a re-translation would be a more sensible option, but they insisted I do only the proofreading, as much as it takes. Then I read further down the contract and saw a clause similar to what Levan suggested, i.e.'This Contract is executed in ... copies in [Source Language] and [Target Language]. In case of any dispute related to or arisen from this Contract, the [Source Language] copy should prevail'.

This eased my mind a bit, and I did the proofreading, which turned up to be a 15-hour work. To this day I am not sure that the target language version of the contract is OK for use, although I have corrected and re-corrected each of its sentences. I also warned the Client about my feelings and they assured me that I have nothing to worry about.

What I want to say is, take the job only if you can deal with legal phrases. Sentences in Contracts can be long and the process of translation such long and complex paragraphs can be very painful. Personally, I do believe that we are liable for what we put in our translations and we all know what "medical" or "legal" means — sometimes a treatment can be applied on a patient and if the translation of instructions of drug use was wrong...

But the perfection of translation does include proofreaders... or at least I hope so.

Good luck!

Seadeta


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haitch
Local time: 07:09
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all your advice Oct 1, 2004

I have finished the translation now, and sent it back to the client. The client is a friend of a friend, so I don't believe she was trying to pull a fast one, but I suggested to her that the sentence 'This translation is for legal purposes only, the < source language > version shall be legally valid. The < target language > translation shall have no legal validity' be added at the bottom of the contract. The contract wasn't written up by a lawyer, so the source document was (luckily) very easy to understand and I'm certain I did a good job of the translation.
I was also worried because the contract was about something which is just not legally possible in this country - luckily my husband has a little knowledge of these things. But like so many of you have said, I can't be responsible for what somebody else is willing to sign. I do feel a bit guilty, though.

I'd just like to add that it is great to find a community like this where people are willing to help and give advice. Thanks!


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 09:09
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
Need not?!!! Oct 1, 2004

Tayfun Torunoglu wrote:

As we are not responsible from any murder commited by a gun just because we translated user manual of the gun, we are not responsible from the content or disputes arose between parties to any agreement we translated.
Our responsibilty is within linguistic service borders but there may be very unusual cases. Each such unusual case can not be described or asked from lawyers.
First of all we should have very basic knowledge of law to distinguish right and wrong and only when there is really important or involved cases, we can not grasp meaning, refer to lawyers. Lawyers are not free, and even free they are not with us each minute. We should know our rights, duties, borders of our liabilities.

[Edited at 2004-10-01 15:08]

[Edited at 2004-10-01 15:11]


We need not?! Excuse me, but when 'you' notarize a translation, you sign a text like that:
'... and the translator assured that he/she would ptovide the accurate translation.'
Excuse me again, but that is well known for any translator, who works with legal translations i.e. contracts, bylaw, etc. And that is CORRECT. Just imagine a translation, which a translator is NOT responsible for!!!


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