In years gone by a tattoo was often the more popular form of “body art” although in recent times there has been a significant increase in the number of body piercings and unfortunately also in botched body piercing claims for compensation. Body piercings can range from relatively innocuous stud earrings to large and eye-catching piercings across a whole range of parts of the body.
Where there is any kind of piercing of the skin there is obviously a potential risk of infection and complications. However, while the authorities grapple with the introduction of industrywide regulations we have seen issues where customers have experienced negligence resulting in potential liability for compensation.
How Popular Are Body Piercings?
The British Medical Journal has issued a number of studies on body piercings suggesting there are around 10% of the population who have piercings other than the traditional earlobe. It will come as no surprise to learn that body piercings are more popular with females in the age group of 16 to 24 with a surprisingly high 46% claiming to have some kind of piercing. Further investigation also found that 31% of those with body piercings reported various complications including swelling, bleeding and infection. The study also found that 1% of those reporting issues were eventually admitted to hospital for further medical treatment.
While fashions and trends do change, it does seem as though body piercings are here to stay and are becoming as commonplace as tattoos. As we touched on above, where there is a puncturing of the skin there is obviously the potential risk of infection and other issues. That aside, when a body piercing is conducted by an experienced professional the risks should be relatively low. The problems tend to occur with inexperienced staff and unhygienic practices in various establishments – whether established or relatively new. However, in the event that you incur a body piercing injury after a piercing there may be an opportunity to claim for personal injury where there is potential negligence leading to liability.
Like many of the less common personal injury claims today, aside from general health and safety and customer protection regulations, there are other specific laws which can assist with prosecution. In this particular instance the occupiers’ liability claim regulations can come into play and support a potential compensation claim.
Risks Associated With Body Piercings
It goes without saying that body piercings effectively open up the body to potential infection and additional complications. There are obviously ways and means of ensuring body piercings are clean and the area is disinfected but not all body piercing practitioners abide by the same standard of care. While many people will be familiar with ear piercings there are various new trends today, taking in other parts of the body that could arise in a botched body piercing injury claim. These include:
Nose piercings are becoming more popular because they are difficult to ignore as they are literally in front of your face. The one problem with nose piercings, aside from traditional piecing issues, is the fact it is difficult to disinfect the inner surface of the nose. It is not only the position of the nose but the very fact that your nostrils are there to stop airborne pollutants from entering your body therefore these pollutants can amalgamate in the nose. Normally there would be no issue with regards to potential infection but once the skin is pierced and they are exposed to blood the risk begins to rise.
It may surprise many to learn that piercings of the tongue carry a relatively small risk of infection despite the food and drink which passes across them. The fact the tongue is relatively easy to clean and disinfect, especially important during the early days of piercings, is one reason why it is less of a risk compared to nose piercings. However, where there are significant blood vessels, as in the tongue, there is increased risk of swelling as we will touch on below.
Ear Cartilage Piercing
Even though traditional earlobe piercing is relatively straightforward the same cannot always be said of ear cartilage piercings. These are piercings which are located around the ear but not on the earlobe – which consists of skin. Even by touching the outside of your ear you will feel the relatively hard cartilage which gives your ear its distinct shape. Ear cartilage piercings towards the top of the ear are said to be the most risky because pus caused by infection can become trapped beneath the cartilage.
Where the infectious pus becomes trapped under the cartilage this can lead to significant infection and in some circumstances the creation of an abscess. Due to the location, antibiotics are not always as potent as in other areas of the body, and sometimes it may require surgery to remove the cartilage, thereby enabling the surgeon to remove the abscess/ infection. In these circumstances it is very easy for long-term deformities and scarring to occur as the creation of an abscess also opens up the individual to potential blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome. While these are rare circumstances they are issues which need to be considered when looking at ear cartilage piercings.
In theory it is possible to pierce any part of the body although intimate piercings, while often seen as adventurous, can run a higher risk of infection and other side effects. When you bear in mind that the genital area is associated with sexual activity and toilet actions, it is not difficult to see the potential risk of infection increasing. Painful swelling can emerge; infection can lead to further medication requirements and in some circumstances surgery.
Other Risk Factors To Consider With Body Piercings
Once your body is pierced then you are effectively exposed in some way to the environment around you. This carries a general risk of infection and where there are significant numbers of blood vessels, such as the tongue, this can also lead to swelling. While swelling can be treated with medications such as antibiotics, there may be further complications with breathing if the tongue swells to a seriously abnormal size. Some body piercing injury claimants have received compensation awards due to a lack of due care and diligence by the service provider which can in some cases lead to an allergic reaction to metals effectively inserted into the body.
General concerns regarding the likes of HIV and other infections are not as relevant today as they have been in years gone by because of improved hygiene and emerging regulations. However, when looking at body piercings overseas it is worth remembering that not all countries encourage such high levels of hygiene. While there are specific risks even in a clean environment, these risks are multiplied somewhat when dirty equipment is used.
Legislation For Body Piercing Practitioners
Even though the trend for body piercing has been around for some years now, it is fair to say it has only really picked up in popularity in recent times. It is also fair to say that the regulators have not yet “caught up” with the industry and while there is often local legislation across the UK there is no standard industry body. No doubt this industry body will emerge in due course and make legislation and protection, both for practitioners and customers, much stronger but there is still some way to go.
The issue of experience and training is also proving a difficult matter because until there is a nationally recognised body it is difficult to put together a nationally recognised training programme. As a consequence, while the system is slowly emerging we still see many instances of poor working practices which can lead to infection and other issues from body piercings gone wrong.
Legal Requirements To Protect Against Body Piercing Injury
It is illegal for a body piercing practitioner to carry out a body piercing without the customer signing what is known as an “informed consent” document. This can only be completed after discussing any issues the customer may have experienced in the past and potential complications. If the practitioner is content with the answers to the survey then the client will sign the document and the procedure can begin. A lack of “informed consent” documentation is a common basis for action.
At this point it is worth noting that even though you may have signed the “informed consent” form this does not exclude the practitioner from potential liability on the grounds of negligence if they were to cause a body piercing injury. As ever, the duty of care ensures that a practitioner is obliged to take reasonable steps to protect the customer. Even in the event of injury, if it is proven that reasonable steps were taken this may well help the practitioner avoid a body piercing injury compensation payment.
Starting A Body Piercing Injury Claim
In the event of any body piercing injury claim you will need to provide details such as the time and place, practitioners’ name, procedure carried out and details and photographs of the injuries incurred. Where medical assistance is required this will add further support to your body piercing injury claim and should be included when chatting with a personal injury solicitor/ lawyer. They will relatively quickly be able to inform you as to whether you have a valid claim and many will move forward on a No Win No Fee basis which is further explained here.
The next step is to start a body piercing claim and inform the defendant of the circumstances and the injuries incurred. Where negligence and liability are relatively easy to prove, this will likely result in an out-of-court settlement, although there is always the option that the defendant will choose the court route. Any compensation awarded for a botched body piercing will depend upon not only the severity of the body piercing injury and side effects but also the impact on the individual’s everyday life. General damages, for pain and suffering and any impact upon the claimant’s life, as well as special damages, reimbursement of historic and future connected costs, will be considered when calculating how much compensation is owed for your body piercing injury claim.