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Are Your Clients “Bugging” You?

In the distant past of the 1990s, tattoo and piercing shops felt they didn’t need insurance. Permanent cosmetic technicians usually bought some level of insurance coverage, but tattooers and piercers rarely did.  They felt “their work speaks for itself” and “no one will ever sue me.”    Law suits and claims for art are essentially non-existent except in rare cases such as Chinese characters.   Claims are about two things that a tattoo and piercing shop often can’t control:   Staph/MRSA infections and fainting. 

Our last 2007 newsletter dealt with fainting issues from my first hand experience. For a copy of that, go to www.tattoo-ins.com.  It will give you suggestions from an experienced tattooer, Rockwood, on how to reduce your client’s chances of fainting.   

Thus we are left with the issue of staph infection, specifically from Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA). It is a fact that MRSA is running rampant in hospitals and in the general community. California hospitals have been told they must report all incidents of infection from staph or risk being fined.  This is often where people get infections although there are many other know and unknown ways to contact it. 

If your client has ever had any exposure to staph or they have an unexplainable rash on their body, DO NOT WORK ON THEM.   The tattoo/piercing will make it worse and thus they will think you gave them the Staph.  This perception will lead to a lawsuit, a big lawsuit.   And while the tattooer and piercer may ultimately win, legal and discovery fees will cost thousands.  If you don’t have insurance, plan to have $50,000 as a minimum in the bank and a line of credit for much more.    

In some states it is illegal to ask if they have an infection. If you can legally ask the question, we recommend the consent form state:  “I do not have any staph infections or unknown rashes.  If I do, I will advise my tattooer/body piercer/permanent cosmetic technician.”  This provides some protection from these costly lawsuits.

If your state does not allow you to ask about an infection, then the consent form could state: “If I have any medical conditions that could affect the healing of this procedure, I will inform the artist/piercer so they can better serve me.”    We recommend the issue be brought up on the consent form unless the shop is using a medical history form.  It could be handled there also.

Each shop owner should know what their state laws are as to disclosure.    

For more information on the effects of MRSA, go to www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dhpq/ar_MRSA.html.   This is the Centers for Disease Control website.  On their website you can find an article about Staph infections among tattoo recipients. 


Many insurance companies now want to insure tattoo and piercing shops. If you are considering a company that is new to the game, ask the carrier how they handle the situation of a staph/MRSA claim.  Most insurance companies have a communicable disease exclusion, however if the shop does not actually give the client the infection, the carrier should supply a defense against the lawsuit. Find out their position before considering an insurance carrier.   Ideally they will provide you a defense until the situation is determined if the shop gave the infection to the person receiving the service. 

Professional Program Insurance Broker has been insuring tattooers and piercers for 15+ years. We are experienced in understanding these types of claims. With or without insurance, do everything possible to avoid your exposure to this situation.    Keep yourself from being bugged by this type of claim. 

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