In addition to state laws, all beauty salons are subject to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ strict regulations. If you suffer an injury at your local beauty salon and decide to file an insurance claim, there are several legal issues you need to deal with. We discuss those issues here.
Common causes of beauty salon injuries include:
Insufficient or improper training. To do their job properly, salon technicians must use chemicals, hot wax, cuticle and application instruments and must perform other duties that involve close contact with customers. Salon shop owners must ensure every technician has proper training in each area of her duties.
Failure to conduct pretreatment skin patch tests. Most chemical applications instruct the technician to do a skin patch application before moving on with the entire procedure. Skin patch tests determine whether the customer will suffer an allergic reaction to the chemical.
Contaminated chemicals. Chemicals can contaminate if used past the expiration date, when left exposed to the air, reused, or when improperly mixed with other chemicals. Misuse of chemicals often results in customers suffering severe allergic reactions or burns.
Failure to follow proper treatment procedures. Strict application procedures guide almost every service in a beauty salon, whether it’s the amount of time a hair dye is left on, the temperature of the wax, the proper sterilization of instruments, or the use of skin patch tests.
Unsanitary instruments. Using unsanitary instruments can cause bacterial infections, including hepatitis, tuberculosis, and even HIV. Salon instruments need thorough sterilization before each use.
Slippery floors are the most common form of customer injuries. Chemical solutions, soaking water, and floor cleaners can all cause customer injuries. Because many beauty salons have tile or linoleum floors, it’s much easier for a customer to slip and fall.
Beauty salon injuries and the law
To prove the beauty salon breached (violated) its obligation to keep the customer safe (its “duty of care”), you must prove:
- The beauty shop owner could foresee the event causing your injury.
- The technician’s actions were negligent.
- The negligence was the direct and proximate (legally acceptable) cause of your injuries.
- The type of injuries you suffered and the amount of money it will take to compensate you fairly for your injuries.
Foreseeability means you must show that the salon owner or technician knew, or should have known her actions could harm someone. This might occur when the owner hires a technician who doesn’t have proper training in the use of chemical applications. Without proper training, it’s then foreseeable the technician might use the wrong chemicals, resulting in your injuries.
In this case, the beauty shop owner knew improper training might result in injury, or should have known it could. This makes the salon owner responsible, or liable, for the customer’s injuries.
Negligence means you must show that the technician or salon owner’s act deviated from the norm, resulting in your injury. This might occur when a technician fails to apply oil as a base before applying wax to a customer’s eyebrows, resulting in a painful rash. By not applying oil as a base, the technician acted negligently.
Or, let’s say a technician overheats wax that results in burning your eyebrow area. The overheating of the wax and the application to your eyebrow area are the negligent acts.
Direct and Proximate Cause
Direct and proximate (legally acceptable) cause means you must show the negligent act was the cause of your injury. You must link your injury directly to the negligent act, eliminating any fault on your part.
Damages mean showing the financial consequences of your injuries. Damages include your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, gasoline costs, parking lot fees, and other expenses related to your treatment), lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Evidence – What to do after you’re injured
Contact the owner or manager
If you’re injured, don’t be embarrassed, and whatever you do, don’t leave until you’ve spoken with the owner or manager of the salon. If you need medical help, ask someone to call 911. If you leave without reporting the incident, you place yourself at a severe disadvantage. Evidence of your injury, such as bad chemicals or unsanitary instruments, may be long gone by the time you come back.
Ask for the name of the salon’s insurance company. Tell the owner or manager you want to file an insurance claim. If the store is one of many chain stores, the manager may tell you she will submit the incident report and someone from the corporate office will contact you. If that’s the case, ask for the address and telephone number of the corporate office. That way, in the event you aren’t contacted within a week or two, you can contact them.
Eyewitnesses are valuable assets you can use to support your beauty salon insurance claim. Independent eyewitnesses have no financial or personal interest in the outcome of your claim, and insurance company claims adjusters take them more seriously.
For example, an eyewitness saw the technician use the same instrument on you she just used on her previous customer. Or a witness may have overheard a technician admit overheating the wax that burned you. Ask eyewitnesses for their names and contact information. Ask if they would write down what they saw, and then sign and date their statements.
Photographs, videos, and audio
Use your cell phone to record the various aspects of your injury and its causes. If you slipped and fell on soapy water, photograph or video the place where you fell and the water. If your phone has an audio function, record what the technician has to say.
Anything the technician says you can use as an admission against interest. That could be an apology, an excuse for her mistake, or an outright admission she caused your injury. See if she will give her name. Ask how long she’s worked at the salon and what training she received. Ask if the owner told techs to reuse chemicals, or use instruments without sterilizing them. Try to think of questions that will support your claim of negligence.
Medical records, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages
You need copies of your medical records. If a local emergency room or local clinic treats you, you need to get copies of your admitting chart and the emergency room doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis. The diagnosis will make clear the type of injury you received. The prognosis will detail the type and extent of treatment you need to recover.
Make copies of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medications, and if you have to miss work, get a letter from your employer verifying your lost wages.
Filing a beauty salon insurance claim
In your initial call to the insurance company, say you were injured at their insured’s beauty salon and you want to speak with a claims adjuster. Leave your name and contact information. Within a week or so, you’ll receive a call from the adjuster. Make sure to ask her for the claim number. You will use it as a reference in all your dealings with the insurance company.
The adjuster will ask for permission to record your statement. As long as you tell the truth and stick to the facts, you can agree. If you don’t, you’re likely to see a delay in processing your claim. Always be honest, but don’t volunteer anything implying you share responsibility for your injury. The adjuster will use it to lower your settlement.
By the time you first speak with the adjuster, she will have already spoken with the beauty salon owner to get her version of the incident. If the adjuster has already decided the beauty shop technician was not negligent, she may deny your claim on the spot.
Don’t expect the adjuster to tell you she admits the salon was negligent and therefore accepts full liability for your damages. That’s not going to happen. Instead, if the insurance company accepts your claim, the adjuster will ask you to send her copies of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and verification of lost wages.
During the same conversation, the adjuster will likely say she’s mailing you a release for medical records. This document allows her to access copies of your medical records to determine the type and nature of your injuries. The adjuster needs your records to help determine the amount of your settlement.
Tell the adjuster you have evidence to support your claim, including photographs and eyewitness reports. She’ll ask you to send copies to her. Go ahead and do so.
If you’re still undergoing treatment for your injuries, the adjuster will likely tell you she won’t discuss a settlement until she has all of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and the entire amount of your lost wages.
Once you complete your treatment and the adjuster has all the information, settlement negotiations begin. Depending on the seriousness of your injury, the adjuster will make you a settlement offer. It will probably be a low offer with room to negotiate.
You can either accept the offer or argue your injury deserves a higher settlement amount. If you aren’t satisfied with the adjuster’s offer, go over with her how much the injury cost you in sleepless nights, depression, continuing pain, and any other problems her insured’s negligence caused.
There’s always room for negotiation in insurance settlement discussions. Don’t give up until the adjuster says the magic words, “This is our final offer.” She won’t say that until you’ve both exhausted negotiations. Once the adjuster says that’s her final offer, you must either accept it or file a lawsuit.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Before you decide to file an insurance claim, you must consider the nature of your injuries. If they were soft tissue injuries like minor burns, bruises, or torn muscles, then you can probably negotiate your own claim. On the other hand, if your injuries are the more serious hard injuries like scarring, second or third-degree burns, or head injuries, you must see a personal injury attorney.
A hard injury deserves a much higher settlement than a soft injury. The problem is, to get the higher settlement offer you need to really press the insurance company. Your attorney does this by a number of pretrial discovery techniques (getting all the information the opposition has). An attorney has many tools at her disposal, tools you don’t have.
She can have subpoenas issued by the court, see the salon’s business records, and take the depositions (recorded statements) of technicians. Employees may make admissions of prior customer injuries or say the owner told them to reuse chemicals, overcharge, or cut corners. With an attorney, you’re more likely receive a much higher settlement than if you handled the claim yourself.
See an example of a beauty salon injury demand letter here.
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