Tis the Season to be Sued
TRADITIONALLY, the holiday season is a busy time for the beauty and spa industries. Everyone wants to look their best for the parties, gatherings and events that fill up the months of December and January. After the season winds down, many people turn to their local spas and salons to relieve the stress that these times bring. This can mean an increase in business over the following weeks and months, which is the good news.
With the start of the hectic holiday season comes an increase in tension. No matter what the economic circumstances, the result of too much to do and too little time results in uptight, overwhelmed people. Now coupled with an economy where money is tight, stress levels are even worse. Having to deal with family and friends who are in the same situation does not help matters.
The salon owner should be aware that stressed out, angry clients are more likely to sue should something go wrong. People are much pickier about any service that they get since their nerves might be on edge, thus leading to more claims and lawsuits against all businesses.
When money is tight, bringing a lawsuit or a claim against an unsuspecting business owner may seem like the easy way to get a little cash to put presents under the tree. These shakedown claims have been increasing over the past few years, where people allege they suffered an injury from the salon they visited or the service they received.
Invest your time
Salon owners who are aware of this can take steps to protect themselves. For one, do not rush clients! Even though the days will be hectic and long, a professional should make sure to take their time with clients. Spending a little more time now could save you many headaches in the future. A medical history/ consent form is always suggested prior to a facial or microdermabrasion procedure. This form gives you information about the client’s expectations for the result of the procedure, a little insight into their state of mind and an overview of their basic medical history.
A consent form should be used with procedures like Brazilian waxing, tanning, permanent cosmetics, massage and many other services. Be mindful that while having a consent form on file for clients will lessen your liability, a person cannot sign away 100 percent of their rights.
Many people have unrealistic expectations about what their results will be for any given spa procedure. Make it clear to your client that they will not look like Jennifer Aniston after one body wrap, their highlights will not instantly transform them into Julia Roberts and the body wrap will not make them into a twig. Making it clear what they should expect will lessen your liability afterward.
The reason it can be important for spa professionals to be aware of current medical conditions is that there are health issues that might require a doctor’s release. For example, if a person has cancer and wants a body wrap or foot detox treatment, you might need to get a medical release from the client’s doctor before performing any treatments. It is safer for the facility to have a medical professional sign off on the procedure rather than just assume their current medical condition will not be affected. It is also important to review any allergies that the client may list on the medical history form. I was informed of a circumstance where a client had an allergic reaction to a body wrap and ended up dying during the treatment due to anaphylactic shock. Again, take your time when you review a client’s form and make sure you are aware of any complications that could arise.
If using a medical history form, it is a good idea to add the question “are you currently on any mood-altering or antidepression medication?” This question would not be used to deny a treatment, but it will give you a better understanding of the individual you are working on. If a person is on a medication that is meant to alter their moods, they could be more likely to sue if something goes wrong or be more sensitive if they are not happy with the results. While many if not most Americans are on some type
of medication, it never hurts to know what you are getting into before you start the procedure.
Clients have the right to bring a lawsuit against you if they are dissatisfied with the results of the procedure; they do not have to suffer an actual injury. A good attorney costs $325 to $600+ per hour to defend you in a malpractice case. A typical insurance policy will cost only a fraction of that amount One must ask “is the savings now worth the huge attorney bills later?” A good insurance company will protect you against liability claims, including the defense costs.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to remember to put the interests of your business first. If you have a cantankerous person who is already complaining and you have not even booked their appointment yet, it may be best to advise them that they should go elsewhere. Ask yourself if it is really worth the money you will get for the liability you are taking on.
Jennifer Schoenthal, Professional Program Insurance Brokerage, Novato, CA, has been in the insurance industry for more than 12 years . She is a well-known speaker and writer, advising ways to develop a successful business and implement procedures to increase loss control and prevention.