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Insurance contracts could be void if they are not in English

Let's say that you are an Arizonan who speaks English as a second language. When you purchased your insurance policy, your provider gave you a contract written in your mother tongue. After all, insurance contracts can be confusing enough without trying to decipher a language with which you aren't familiar. You expect that the terms of your contract will be the same in English as in your native language.

Now, let's say that you have filed an insurance claim, only to have it denied. The reason? The wording of your contract is slightly different from its English translation. You take the matter to court--but find that the contract you signed is void because it is not in English.

Non-English contracts can be nullified

This scenario may soon be common for many policyholders in Arizona. The Governor recently signed House Bill 2083, a bill that voids the non-English versions of insurance contracts. If a policyholder signs a contract that was written in Spanish, Chinese or any other foreign language, it can be nullified and replaced with its English-language counterpart, even if the wording and terms are different.

Opponents say that it grants insurance companies the upper hand in disputes with policyholders. Some critics have even called the measure racist, arguing that it unfairly targets immigrants. The bill's supporters say that it motivates insurance companies to provide translations of their contracts.

Conflicting contracts

So, what does this mean if you have signed an insurance contract that is not in English? It means that you may feel pressured to sign a contract in English, even if you do not fully understand it. It also means that insurance companies may be able to deny their policyholders' claims based on slight differences in the contract's language. If the matter proceeds to trial, the court need honor only the insurance company's English version of the contract. You may need an insurance lawyer to help you navigate an English-language contract, hold your insurance company accountable and receive your settlement.

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