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Insurance Wise

By: Katie Armitage
Posted: October 26, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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In an unusually sensitive case, a client who received a Brazilian wax experienced a labial tear during her session. Bleeding, she went to the emergency room and received antibiotics, stitches and a tetanus shot. Her claim asked for damages to cover her pain and suffering. It is important for every professional to know that when a claim is highly personal and emotional, the client is likely to ask for more money. Cases similar to this one have resulted in settlements for thousands of dollars.

When malpractice occurs, blame is often shared or disputed. Melissa thought her client’s eyebrow waxing appointment would be like any other—simple and brief. Unfortunately, the client was on a mission to look her very best that day and went directly from her waxing appointment to another salon for a fresh hair color application and something caused the client’s eyebrows to swell, possibly harsh fumes from the coloring chemicals. She came back and angrily confronted Melissa. Later, she visited a physician and received an ointment, along with the disturbing news that she might need plastic surgery. Her next call was to an attorney. This was a case where the liability was questionable: Was the first spa at fault? Was Melissa? The second salon? The colorist? How would a jury have seen it? Melissa had professional liability coverage and despite the ambiguous liability, the medical bills were settled out of court.

Ingrid also had a client who left the spa happy but changed her mind after her microdermabrasion treatment resulted in severe peeling because she didn’t follow her after-care instructions. Although it was contraindicated, a physician, perhaps acting on incomplete information, prescribed isotretinoin for the client months later and her skin turned red. Although it may be easy to fault the client and the physician, it’s hard to say what conclusion a sympathetic jury might reach. Despite the omissions of others, Ingrid’s malpractice coverage came to the rescue.

Occurrence form vs. claims made

Rebecca performed a glycolic facial on a client who soon after claimed that the treatment caused her burns, blisters, blotchiness, discoloration, inflammation, scarring and swelling. Sound expensive? It could have been. In Rebecca’s case, the stars lined up in her favor two ways. Although the client complained soon after her treatment, she didn’t file a lawsuit until after the statute of limitations expired two years later. Rebecca had an extra measure of security because she had occurrence-form coverage, an important consideration when it comes to late claims.

Late claims are an issue because many skin care professionals work in more than one spa or have a practice on the side. In many markets, skin care is a transient business because professionals often change jobs or take time off for personal reasons. Some estheticians allow their liability coverage to lapse during these intervals, or they quit the profession altogether.