I am currently representing several deaf clients in personal injury cases in Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County.
Our firm frequently gets inquiries from hearing-impaired injury victims. I think this is because of the quality of the information provided on our website, and because our site has an interface where potential clients can submit their case facts or questions in writing. As a result, I have developed some useful tips for injury lawyers representing hearing-impaired clients.
First- telephone conversations can be conducted through a free relay service. The client calls in, and all conversation is interpreted by an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. This is a lifesaver for communicating between face-to-face meetings, where email will not provide sufficient attorney-client communication.
Second- call ahead to arrange an ASL interpreter for all court appearances. This service is provided by the state free of charge and is essential to constitutionally adequate proceedings. I have found that if you arrive early, the assigned interpreter is usually more than happy to provide interpretation for a brief attorney-client conference before the proceeding begins.
Third- law offices are considered public accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). This means we are required to provide an interpreter for client meetings. Even though arranging for an ASL interpreter for private meetings has a cost attached, that cost may not be passed along to the client in the form of a case expense. Moreover, there is a very real probability that the attorney cannot satisfy the ethical duty of client communication under MLRPC 1.4 without the use of an interpreter.
Hopefully, this is helpful. I confess, I didn’t know about the ADA requiring lawyers to provide interpreter services until a client pointed it out to me.
Check out some more useful information here:
- While this link is on tips to communicate with deaf people in general, it is still useful.