During the Swedish Association of Professional Translators annual conference I made an interesting observation. While discussing to several Nordic translators they voiced their apprehension for working with American agencies. Their motivation was that they are afraid of the perceived litigiousness of American business culture, and feel that the American agencies’ contracts are intimidating. They feel they need expensive liability insurance in order to work for American agencies. This is news to me, since I have worked for dozens of American agencies in the past 10 years, and have not had any trouble whatsoever. Perhaps this is because I started my freelance translation career after moving to the United States. Has anyone else had a similar experience or experienced similar apprehension?
I know for a fact that many freelance translators do not have liability insurance and are doing perfectly fine without one. I have liability insurance because some of my larger clients require that I have it, mostly as a formality. That said, I think the fear of American agencies is unwarranted. I have never heard about anyone being sued for a mistranslation. Please share with me if you have. As long as you produce a high quality, double checked translation, the risk of ever getting into trouble is minimal.
The American culture is known for lengthy contracts and limited liability clauses, and this is not only for service providers. For example, the side rear view mirrors on cars in America have a little sticker saying “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” American contracts are just adapted to the American legal culture. Do read through them, but do not worry. If there is something you definitely do not agree with, you can always cross this out before signing and returning the contract. Most agencies accept this anyway.
My conclusion is that this fear is unwarranted and that the translators that are afraid of working for American agencies due to their contracts and liability clauses are missing out on some good business. Do you agree?