Ink-Corporated column (Skin Ink Magazine)
PPIB offers Tattoo Insurance and Body Piercing Insurance
Economic slumps fuel boons in lawsuits. They inspire scam artists to follow the money of verdicts and settlements against those with deep pockets. With so many tattooists appearing in the media in flash rides and couture clothes, the tattoo industry as a whole is increasingly becoming a target of litigation.
But it’s not just scammers filing actions. Unhappy tattoo clients are expressing their discontent in the courts, and with little trepidation. Once, the parlors of our tattoo ancestors would inspire fear and awe in those who walked through the doors. It was a brave customer who would voice any opinion. Today, the Internet and cable TV have made us think that we’re all tattoo experts, like armchair quarterbacks of the arts. So when a session doesn’t turn out as planned, many more are calling lawyers.
The cases range from the ridiculous to the deadly serious. The money and time spent defending against these attacks can cause a huge strain on tattooists. To mitigate this strain, shops and artists have a line of defense available to them beyond high-powered counsel: tattoo and piercing insurance.
Insurance should be designed to protect everything from slip and falls to infections to tattooed misspellings. Susan Preston, the founder and president of Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB), says she’s seen it all over the nearly twenty years PPIB has been covering the body art industry. When asked about the most common claims filed against tattoo & piercing studios, she explains:
“One of the most common is on disease. They get a Staph or MRSA infection, say from a hospital, but then when they go get the tattoo, it will make it worse and they think they got it from the shop. They did not (usually), but it leads to a lawsuit. Sexual abuse claims are also increasing. I have seen where a woman client alleged the tattooer offered her a tattoo in return for “services rendered.” Even if the tattooer is an independent contractor, the shop owner gets sued. Another case was when a woman wanted her lower back tattooed and the tattooer sat in front of her and said “hold on tight.” That didn’t end well. […] As far as piercers go, we had a body piercer put a nipple piercing on a pole dancer. When the jewelry got caught in a pole, she tried to blame the piercer. While that was not necessarily his fault, it did cost quite a few thousand dollars to get out of the claim.”
Indeed, even in the most frivolous cases in which the person suing is awarded nothing, the costs of defending the claims are substantial and the right policy should cover those costs.
Then there are the cases of tattoo art gone wrong. Preston adds: “We had a Mexican flag put on backwards on an entire back a few years ago. The colors in the flag were very difficult to remove. It cost a few thousand dollars to resolve. Tattooing sport symbols is difficult as well. If a team logo is put on incorrectly, people get quite irritated about that especially when their friends laugh at them. Thus, shops must be extremely careful when they tattoo a well-known symbol. We paid quite a few thousand dollars for a claim on an East Coast team where the logo was put on backwards.”
The costs of insurance can start at under $750 for one person, says Preston, and it varies from there depending on the number of people in the shop. Although many artists working in one studio may be considered independent contractors and not employees, the shop owner will almost always get sued if something goes wrong, whether or not the tattooer is independent, so it’s often best to have all the artists put on one policy or have each one get their own coverage. Owners can also get coverage for apprentices and guest artists.
Not every shop may be eligible for coverage, however. Insurance companies may not want to insure a place that doesn’t have the proper sterilization and sanitation systems, that doesn’t use the proper forms, or a place that has a heavy claims history – essentially the type of establishment that’s ignoring the laws and looking for trouble.
These types of shops, though, are a minority in the tattoo industry. It’s fair to say that most just want to make a living in a safe and clean way. And those looking to scam a dollar from these establishments are a minority as well among the increasing number of tattoo collectors. But with the protection of insurance, artists are free to focus on creating art and relationships with clients, in good economic times and in bad.