How to translate the multifaceted term “insurance claim”?

Native speakers might find this question trivial, but they should be aware that this term has many different meanings. For non-natives, let us start with the basics: in general terms, a claim can be a simple statement, a right over something or a demand for something that is owed.

A statement: you claim that Mr Argos owes you $1000.
A right: if you are entitled to receive $1000 from Ms FinNeo, then you can say you hold a claim against her (créance in French, crédito in Spanish and Portuguese, credito in Italian…).
A demand/request: since you have a right to receive $1000, you can exercise this right and claim your money back.

This is where it all should have ended, but the reality is quite different.

Claim in the insurance sector

1- Claim as a demand for payment according to the terms of a policy. This meaning is consistent with one of the three basic meanings of “claim”: a demand/request. But over time, something happened to the word “claim”… something called metonymy, the process through which the name of one thing is used to refer to the name of another with which it is logically associated. For example, metonymy happens when you say “I drank the whole bottle” instead of saying “I drank the whole content of the bottle”. What makes the term “insurance claim” so complex for non-natives is that metonymy happened to it several times, as shown below in 2- and 3-! As explained below, the word “claim” is now used to refer to specific subparts of the insurance claim process.

2- Claim as a loss event: in order to be valid and reimbursed, the insured’s claim, or formal demand, must refer to a specific event that caused a loss covered by their insurance policy. That event, also known as “loss event”, is often referred to as a claim!
Examples: “Be ready to explain the circumstances of the claim” or “You must give immediate notice of the claim”… What is really meant is: you must make a claim to report the unfortunate event, i.e. explain the circumstances that led to you making a claim...

3- Claim as an indemnity: if the insured’s claim, or formal demand, is accepted, it will trigger the payment of a specific amount of money. Well, that amount of money too is often referred to as a “claim”.
Example: “Subject to Section 5.03 of the General Terms and Conditions of your Policy, we will pay your claim within 30 days from…” This is a perfect example of metonymy, where a thing is named after an associated concept.

Therefore, claim as an insurance term can mean very different things.

Summary table: real-life examples of how the word “claim” can be used by insurance companies

Claim process

Claim as a loss event

Claim as a formal demand for payment

Claim as an indemnity

August 22, 1:00 p.m.: you suffer a loss covered by your insurance policy and you must “give immediate notice of the claim”, i.e. give notice of the loss event

August 22, 2:30 p.m.: you finally find a phone and give notice of the claim. By reporting the claim (loss event), you are actually filing a claim (a request for reimbursement of a loss you suffered). Your claim, or request, will now be assessed by your insurance company to determine whether to indemnify your loss.

September 1, 9 a.m.: you receive a call from your company telling you that they accepted your claim (request). They will pay your claim within 30 days (indemnity for the loss you suffered and for which you requested to be indemnified).

This situation where one word is used to refer to several steps of a whole process, itself referred to by using that same word, can give rise to interesting sentences. For example, you could very well write: “Insurance Ltd helps you through the whole claim process, from the moment you suffer a claim through to the moment you make a claim and your claim is paid”.

Now that we have shown how many different meanings the word claim can have in the insurance field, let us give some solutions for people struggling to translate this term to their own language.

How to translate the word “claim” according to context?

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General

Insurance

 

Claim as a statement

Claim as a right

Claim as a debt

Claim as a loss event

Claim as a formal demand for payment

Claim as an indemnity

Example

The company makes no claim as to the value of the assets

The country will not give up its claim to the territory

The creditor’s claims against the debtor

You must give immediate notice of the claim

Please make sure to submit your claim as soon as possible

We will pay your claim within 30 days

French

prétention, déclaration, affirmation

droit, revendication, réclamation

créance

sinistre

déclaration de sinistre, demande de règlement, demande de remboursement (medical insurance), avis de sinistre (chiefly Swiss), demande d'indemnité (chiefly Canadian), réclamation (anglicism only used in Canada)

indemnité, règlement d’un sinistre, remboursement (medical)

Spanish

pretensión declaración, afirmación

derecho, reivindicación, reclamación

crédito

siniestro

declaración de siniestro, aviso de siniestro, parte de siniestro (only in Spain), solicitud de indemnización, solicitud de reembolso (medical insurance),  reclamación

indemnización, reembolso (medical)

Portuguese

pretensão, declaração, afirmação

direito, reivindicação, reclamação

crédito

sinistro

participação de sinistro, pedido de indemnização, pedido de reembolso (medical insurance), reclamação

indenização, reembolso (medical)

Italian

pretesa, dichiarazione, affermazione

pretesa, rivendicazione, diritto, reclamo

credito

sinistro

denuncia di sinistro, dichiarazione di sinistro, avviso di sinistro, richiesta di risarcimento, pretesa di risarcimento, richiesta di indennizzo, pretesa di indennizzo, richiesta di rimborso (medical insurance), reclamo

risarcimento, indennizzo, rimborso (medical)

A common anglicism to be avoided

Translators can be tempted to translate “insurance claim” by réclamation, reclamación, reclamação or reclamo in French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, respectively. We strongly discourage them from doing so, not because it is an anglicism but because in these languages, these words also mean “complaint”. For example, if you are dealing with a French insurance company, filing a déclaration de sinistre means filing an insurance claim whereas filing a réclamation means filing a complaint against the insurance company because you are dissatisfied with something they have done or failed to do. The same happens with reclamación, reclamação or reclamo in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, respectively.

This is no big deal, some might say. The problem is that most insurance companies have in place both claim and complaint filing procedures. You can very well imagine the following sentence: “For any complaint regarding the handling of your claim, please contact the Complaints Department”. This could be translated into Spanish by “Para cualquier reclamación en relación con su reclamación, póngase en contacto con el Departamento de Reclamaciones”, which makes no sense. A correct translation could be: “Para cualquier reclamación en relación con su declaración de siniestro, póngase en contacto con el Departamento de Reclamaciones”. The same happens in French, Italian and Portuguese.

This article was written by the Terminological Research team of financial translation company Argos FinNeo. For more information, you can find us at www.argos-finneo.com.