Four deaf patients who were denied sign language interpreters won a $700,000 settlement from a hospital that now promises to have the interpreters available.

The settlement Jersey City Medical Center agreed to Monday is the largest ever paid by a hospital under a 1973 federal law requiring the interpreters, according to the National Association of the Deaf Law Center.The patients went to the hospital at least 300 times over a decade and never once had interpreters, even though one had a Caesarean section and another was HIV-positive, lawyer Clara R. Smit said.

"They all suffered trauma," Smit told The Star-Ledger of Newark Tuesday. "It's kind of like veterinary medicine when you're treating them without telling them anything about their condition."

In one case, hospital staff suggested Ida Hickson use her 9-year-old son to translate while she sought help for her 3-year-old daughter who had the flu, Smit said.

"We're hoping this will tell other hospitals that they better start doing it," Smit said. "Otherwise, you're going to have to pay."