Can You Sue if Your Tattoo Gets Infected?

Pain, swelling, and redness are all natural parts of the healing process for tattoos, and infections are not uncommon. However, if your tattoo becomes severely infected, you may be entitled to damages for the pain and complications you endure.

Whether or not you can sue for a tattoo infection depends on which party is at fault. If your tattoo gets infected due to lack of proper care on your part, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to receive compensation. But if you can prove that your tattoo artist’s negligence led to the infection, you may be able to recover the costs of medical expenses or lost wages.

To prove your tattoo artist’s negligence you’ll need hard evidence that they did not follow proper safety procedures, and you may need a doctor to testify on your behalf. Suing a tattoo artist is a risky game to play, as it is often difficult to prove their negligence. You should be absolutely sure that your infection was caused by your tattoo artist before you seek damages.

Standard of Care

Tattoo parlors are required to follow strict procedures to ensure the safety of their clients. If you can prove that your tattoo artist failed to follow any of the steps listed below, you may be entitled to compensation.

Standard of care procedures:

  • The tattoo artist must enquire about the client’s medical history and any allergies that could lead to infection
  • The client must be asked if they are of legal age to receive a tattoo (over 18)
  • The parlor must openly display health and safety certificates
  • The tattoo artist must follow proper sanitization rules, including sterilizing needles and washing their hands.
  • The artist must inform the client on how to care for the tattoo after they leave the parlor

Infections are a known risk associated with tattoos. In most cases, the client has to sign a waiver before tattooing even begins. If you decide to pursue a lawsuit, your tattoo artist will likely use your signed waiver form as their line of defense. 

A waiver can absolve the tattoo artist of any responsibility for normal risks associated with tattoos, and they will use it to argue implied assumption of risk on your part. For this reason, it is crucial to be able to prove exactly how the artist’s negligence caused your infection.

How Do Tattoos Become Infected?

Tattoos can become infected due to the artist’s negligence or because of the tattoo owner’s failure to care for it properly. 

A tattoo artist can cause their client’s tattoo to become infected if they:

  • Reuse needles they previously used on another client
  • Keep a parlor that is generally unsanitary
  • Fail to wash their hands before tattooing someone’s skin
  • Fail to sterilize their equipment properly
  • Use contaminated ink
  • Have open sores or a communicable disease
  • Use a product that the client is allergic to without checking beforehand

Walking into a parlor that looks unsanitary is an immediate red flag. If your tattoo artist fails to follow proper procedures, you should address the issue immediately, or even leave the parlor so that you do not sustain an infection.

If your tattoo does become infected, you will have to prove that your tattoo artist is guilty of one of the above offenses in order to win your case.

Types of Infections

All infections are not alike, and which type you sustain depends on what type of faux pas your tattoo artist made. Infections that can occur after getting a tattoo include:

  • Impetigo
  • Herpes Simplex
  • Cellulitis
  • Viral Warts
  • Atypical mycobacterial infection

Negligent tattoo practice can also cause infections of the blood which include:

  • Viral Hepatitis
  • Syphilis
  • Leprosy
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Infections are often caused by contaminated ink. While tattoo artists can contaminate ink themselves by diluting it with unsterilized water, sometimes the situation is out of their hands. Tattoo ink can become contaminated during manufacturing, and the FDA currently does not require tattoo ink to be sterile.

Will You Pursue a Lawsuit

If you are absolutely certain that your tattoo artist caused your infection and would like to file a lawsuit against them you will need to document your evidence clearly. Following the steps below can help you build a solid case.

  • See a Doctor. Do not assume a severe infection will go away on its own. Seeking medical attention ensures your safety, and can come in handy in a settlement case, as your doctor will be able to provide insight into the cause of your infection.
  • Take photographs. Filing for damages can be a lengthy process, so it is important to take photos of your infection to use as evidence. The area may have healed before you are even able to get close to a settlement.
  • Keep records. Keep copies of medical bills, paperwork from the parlor, and any other expenses you may have incurred due to the infection.

Following the steps above can help you earn a settlement. However, your tattoo artist is likely to have an insurance company fighting on their behalf. Insurance companies are known to use tactics to get claimants to settle for less, and it is unlikely you’ll have enough background knowledge of the law to be able to stand up to them. 

Proving a tattoo artist’s negligence is difficult. Hiring a personal injury attorney can help you receive the damages to which you are entitled. Personal injury lawyers are trained to go up against big insurance companies that use intimidation tactics. They also know the law inside and out, so they will be able to help you get your documents and evidence in order to ensure important details are not overlooked.