Body Piercing Injury Compensation Claims

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a body piercing injury, we can help.

If your injuries were caused by the negligence of a doctor, nurse, midwife or other medical professional, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

Claiming injury compensation with a solicitor

You can make a compensation claim with the help and support of a specialist clinical negligence solicitor.

Your solicitor will ask you about what happened, and they will collect evidence to prove the negligence happened. Your solicitor will also work out how much money you can claim, based on your injuries, lost earnings and other expenses.

We can help you make a medical negligence claim on a No Win No Fee basis.

In this article

Introduction

A recent study by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that one in 10 people had a body piercing other than in the earlobe.

The study found that piercings are most popular with 16-24 year old females, with 46% of them claiming to have a piercing. 31% of these respondents reported complications - including swelling, infection and bleeding. Half of those required medical attention, and 1 in 100 respondents were admitted to hospital.

While the procedure is generally safe when conducted by a trained professional with the correct equipment, individuals considering a piercing should be aware that risks remain. Even where the procedure is performed in a specialist clinic subsequent injury or illness is a possible outcome.

Under such circumstances, it may be possible to make a personal injury claim against the party responsible, and may be referred to as an occupiers' liability claim.

What are the risks?

The main risk associated with all body piercings is bacterial infection, although the level of risk varies according to which part of the body has been pierced.

Nose piercing injury claims

Nose piercings pose a greater risk of infection than earlobe piercings as the inner surface of the nose cannot be easily disinfected. However, despite the high number of bacteria inside the mouth, tongue piercings carry a smaller risk of bacterial infection.

Ear cartilage piercing claims

Ear cartilage piercings (at the top of the ear) are riskier than earlobe piercings.

Because the skin is close to the underlying cartilage pus can become trapped, leading to infection and development of an abscess. Antibiotics do not always successfully treat this problem and surgery may be needed to remove the affected cartilage. This may lead to a deformed ear and scarring.

Abscesses may need to be surgically drained causing scarring. In some cases, blood poisoning (sepsis) may develop; or toxic shock syndrome, which can be very serious. Blood poisoning can also occur without an abscess.

Other possible problems that can occur as a result of body piercing are:

  • Bleeding and blood loss - especially in areas rich in blood vessels, such as the tongue.
  • Swelling of the skin around the piercing.
  • Scarring and the formation of keloid (a type of oversized scar).

Other parts of the body

Piercings that interfere with the functions of the body carry higher risks of causing problems. For example:

Tongue (oral) piercings can cause speech impediments and chipped teeth if the jewellery wears away tooth enamel. There is also a risk that if the tongue swells, airways will be blocked. Genital piercings can sometimes make sex and urination difficult and painful.

Although the risk of contracting blood borne viruses such as hepatitis or HIV is now low, due to registered piercing premises using disposable sterile needles and other equipment, in countries where hygiene standards are less restrictive there is a risk from dirty needles.

Other medical Issues

Medical problems may result if a customer has an allergic reaction to the metals used in body ornaments.

In the case of mouth piercings this can cause respiratory, dental and speech problems.

Nerves, blood vessels and arteries may also be damaged if the professional carrying out the procedure misdirects their needle or piercing gun by even a fraction of an inch.

Current legislation

Although over the years a variety of legislation has been introduced to encourage and support safe practice, and model by-laws have been made available, these have not been accompanied by standard requirements for compliance.

Local or regional guidelines have been developed, often initiated by environmental health or health protection specialists; however, there have been difficulties in engaging practitioners in the development of such guidelines and in securing adoption and wider implementation.

With no nationally recognised or accredited training courses, standards for practice, agreed knowledge and skills frameworks or arrangements for monitoring and reporting of professional competence, it is easy for poor practices to be adopted.

Is body piercing regulated?

Under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 all employers and self-employed persons have a general duty of care to ensure their activities do not expose them or the general public to risks to their health or safety. This includes those engaged in body piercing activities for gain or reward.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require all employers and self-employed persons to undertake a risk assessment of their activities and to either remove the risk or provide control measures to reduce it as far as possible. They must also provide training to staff to ensure they understand the risks and the control measures.

In relation to body piercing, one of the risks that must be considered is that of possible complications relating to the procedure of skin piercing (for example: infection, scarring, teeth damage).

Informed consent

The practitioner must ensure that a fully ‘informed consent' procedure is adopted. This means gathering information from the client about their health and suitability for the treatment, and giving the client enough information about the possible complications that could arise from the treatment for them to make their own decision.

"Failure to advise" is a factor in many clinical negligence claims, particularly surgical negligence claims, but will also be a factor in piercing and tattoo injury claims.

A claimant who has sustained injury and illness as a result of a body piercing may be entitled to claim for compensation if the illness is a result of the body piercing salon's negligent practice.

Can I still make a body piercing injury claim more than three years after the negligence?

In general, a body piercing injury claim can only be made outside of the three-year limit if you were injured as a child and are still under 21, you were diagnosed within the last three years with a health condition that was caused by historic exposure, or you were fundamentally unable to make a claim within the three-year window, due to incapacity.

Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

Author:
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor