Allergic Reactions and Avoiding Lawsuit with Panicky Clients

Written by Susan Preston

About a year ago, one of our clients, a permanent cosmetic professional, called to say her client was in a panic because of an allergic reaction to her eyebrow pigment. When the professional did not call back in a timely manner, the client went to her doctor and had the pigment excised – twice. This left a rather large indentation in the skin. We are now sitting with a demand from the claimant for a few hundred thousand dollars.
Was it the professional’s fault? Probably not. Yet, the insurance carrier paid over $50,000 in legal fees before even discussing any settlement. If the professional did not have insurance, she would be looking to pay the claim out of her pocket book.
It would have been better if the professional had talked to the client first. There are steps a professional can take to limit the effect of an allergic reaction and, in fact, our office has done considerable research on this very subject matter. The key is to keep the client from panicking, so they do not act hastily without first checking in with a doctor contact of the professional. It is always good for a professional to have a relationship with a doctor, along with an insurance broker, who might understand a better way to solve the problem than excision of a chunk of skin.
There are many instances in a spa where there is a possibility of an allergic reaction. These could include services with the following products: eyebrow hair tint color, eyelash extension glue, fragrances, and moisturizers. It is best the skin care professional review all written material from the manufacturer before providing services with these products. If there are known side effects, put these in writing as part of the consent form. That way, if the client comes back with a problem, the aesthetician can point to the signed consent form and indicate where it was mentioned.
Items with fragrances and moisturizers are the most commonly reported items to cause skin irritations or reactions. If a client calls with a problem, it is best to tell them to immediately discontinue use of the product. If the reaction persists, the client is best advised to go see their doctor. An aesthetician should never attempt to practice medicine without a license.
If a client becomes panicky, do not ignore them, as this is what often leads to lawsuits. Be available for their calls and discuss their concerns. If the client starts to talk about suing the spa or talking to their attorney, that is the time to turn the situation over to the insurance company for further handling.
If there are known side effects based on skin types, it is crucial the aesthetician be aware of it. A few years ago we had a lawsuit where the spa sold a strong aftercare product to a person with African American skin. It was contraindicated for the client’s skin type, but the aesthetician chose to ignore the warning. When the client’s skin broke out right before she attended a major event, the aesthetician was faced with a large lawsuit. Because the product was for home use, the aesthetician needed to carry products liability. Services in the spa are covered under professional liability insurance, whereas products used at home are insured as products liability. Most spa professionals have professional liability insurance but many do not have products liability. If selling or even giving away products for home use, add products liability to your general liability policy.
Any product that can damage skin could lead to a client having a panic attack. It is best to read everything about the product use, have proper consent forms, and carry general, professional, and products liability with a specialty insurance program. Always take care of the client’s concerns immediately if they come back afterwards with a problem. Professionalism in dealing with problems is what will make the spa successful.

Susan Preston 2019Susan Preston has been at the forefront of insurance program innovation since 1993 when she founded Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB) in Novato, California. Preston is also the co-founder of a non-profit association setting standards for the permanent makeup industry, Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP). With industry involvement, Preston and PPIB have been leaders in insurance programs for emerging markets and for the spa industry. Due to the national reputation of PPIB, in 2016 and 2017, Insurance Business America Magazine named Preston one of the 144 Elite Women in Insurance. ppibcorp.com 

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