Learn about your legal options if you develop an infection from a tattoo
Tattoos are rising in popularity, and the majority of people can look forward to enjoying their new skin art without worrying about complications. Most tattoo artists and shops take great care to prevent infections by following the best practices for sanitation and hygiene before and during your time in the studio.
Unfortunately, there are still some risks that come with getting a tattoo, so knowing how to handle an infection and understanding if it might be the result of negligence is crucial. This article will explain common causes, complications and treatments for infected tattoos, as well as when it may be possible to file a personal injury lawsuit.
How common are tattoo infections?
Tattoo infections can be viral or bacterial, and they can include diseases that range from a simple case of impetigo to life-threatening illnesses like sepsis and HIV.
While the vast majority of people who get tattoos don’t have complications, approximately 1 to 5% of those who undergo the procedure go on to develop an infection.
How long after getting a tattoo does an infection develop?
The amount of time it takes for symptoms to develop depends on the type of infection you have. For instance, a bacterial infection may appear within a few days or weeks. Meanwhile, warts or HIV might not show up for months or even years.
Keeping an eye out for any new symptoms that develop after you get a tattoo can help you seek a diagnosis earlier, when treatment is more effective.
What does an infected tattoo look like?
Tattoo infection signs may be subtle at first but tend to worsen if not promptly addressed. Keep in mind that while a fresh tattoo is a type of open wound and will naturally show some signs of inflammation (redness, mild swelling, slight warmth to the touch), it should not be confused with an early-stage tattoo infection.
Here are some signs that may suggest your tattoo is infected:
- Excessive redness
- Increased swelling or pain
- Pus or discharge
- Increased pain
- Increased heat coming from the tattoo
- Bad odor
- Spreading red streaks
- Blisters or pimples
- Fever or chills
If you suspect your tattoo is infected, seek medical attention as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications.
How can I treat an infected tattoo?
People often wonder how to treat an infected tattoo without a doctor. However, it’s not recommended to use self-treatment without the advice of a medical professional.
Many tattoo infections start off as minor, but they can rapidly turn into systemic health conditions if they move through your bloodstream and affect your entire body.
After you see your doctor, make sure to take the medications they prescribe. You may also be told to wash your tattoo with mild soap and water and to gently pat it dry 1 to 2 times a day. Depending on the type of infection you have, you may also need to keep it bandaged.
Will an infected tattoo heal on its own?
No, tattoo infections rarely heal on their own, and they usually begin to move through several stages when you delay treatment. In the earliest stages, you might see some redness and swelling. If allowed to progress, you might see pus, ulcers or worsening blisters, or you may develop a fever, all of which are indications that you require immediate medical care.
What are the potential complications of a tattoo infection?
Tattoo infections can lead to a range of complications if not promptly and adequately treated, including:
- Cellulitis. A bacterial skin infection that can spread to other parts of the body, causing redness, swelling and warmth around the tattooed area.
- Scarring. Infected tattoos can result in hypertrophic or keloid scarring, altering the tattoo’s appearance and leaving raised tissue.
- Abscess formation. Pockets of pus can develop, requiring medical intervention like drainage or even surgery.
- Bloodborne infections. If the infection is severe or the tattooing equipment was contaminated, there’s a risk of contracting bloodborne pathogens like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or even HIV.
- Sepsis. In extreme cases, untreated infections can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection affecting the entire body.
Prompt treatment is crucial to mitigate these risks, so consult a healthcare provider if you suspect a tattoo infection.
Can an infection ruin my new tattoo?
If you treat a simple infection early, then it usually won’t ruin your tattoo. However, infections that turn into blisters, ulcers or large sores could disrupt the ink and lead to scars, fading and discoloration. Making sure to take care of your skin is the best way to preserve the beauty of your new tattoo.
Common causes of tattoo infections
Tattoo infections can occur due to various factors, and it’s essential to be aware of these common reasons so you can take preventive measures. Here are some common reasons why tattoo infections may occur:
- Contaminated equipment or ink. Infections can arise if the tattoo equipment or ink used is contaminated with bacteria, viruses or other pathogens. Sterilization of equipment, single-use needles, and high-quality, sterile ink are crucial in preventing contamination-related infections.
- Poor hygiene practices. Both the tattoo artist and the individual getting the tattoo should maintain proper hygiene during the tattooing process. Failure to follow hygienic practices, such as using unclean hands, reusing contaminated gloves, or not properly cleaning and disinfecting the tattoo area, can increase the risk of infection.
- Excessive moisture or sweating. Prolonged exposure to water, excessive sweating, or failure to keep the tattooed area dry can create a moist environment that promotes bacterial growth and increases the risk of infection.
- Immune system weakness. Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with certain medical conditions or taking immunosuppressive medications, may have a higher risk of developing an infection after getting a tattoo.
- Environmental factors. Environmental factors, such as exposure to unclean water sources, swimming in pools, hot tubs, or natural bodies of water, or coming into contact with unclean surfaces, can introduce bacteria into the tattooed area and increase the risk of infection.
- Scratching or picking at the tattoo. Itching is a common part of the tattoo healing process, but scratching or picking at the tattoo can introduce bacteria into the area and potentially lead to an infection. It’s important to resist the urge to scratch or pick at the tattooed skin to minimize the risk of infection.
- Improper aftercare. Inadequate or improper aftercare of the tattooed area can contribute to infections. Not following the tattoo artist’s instructions regarding cleaning, applying ointments, avoiding certain activities, or keeping the tattooed area covered can disrupt the healing process and create an environment conducive to infection.
Can I file a lawsuit after a tattoo infection?
Yes, you may be able to file a lawsuit for a tattoo infection. But keep in mind that for a personal injury lawsuit to be successful, you’ll need to prove that the infection was the result of negligence on the part of the tattoo artist or shop.
How do you prove negligence in a personal injury case involving a tattoo infection?
In personal injury cases involving tattoo infections, the duty of care is a crucial element that forms the basis for establishing negligence. To successfully prove a personal injury claim, the injured party must typically demonstrate the following 4 elements of duty of care:
- Duty of care. In the context of tattoo infections, this means showing that the tattoo artist had a legal obligation to act reasonably and take necessary precautions to prevent infections. This duty of care arises from the professional relationship between the artist and the client, where the artist is responsible for providing a safe and hygienic tattooing environment.
- Breach of duty. This requires demonstrating that the artist failed to meet the expected standard of care, such as by neglecting hygiene practices, using contaminated equipment or ink, or not following established industry guidelines or local health department regulations. A breach may also occur if the artist fails to provide proper aftercare instructions or neglects to recognize and address signs of infection during or after the tattooing process.
- Causation. This requires showing that the artist’s negligence directly caused or significantly contributed to the development of the infection. It may involve presenting medical evidence, expert testimony, or other evidence demonstrating that the infection would not have occurred or would have been less severe if the artist had fulfilled their duty of care.
- Damages. The final element is proving that the plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the tattoo infection. This can include physical pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress, scarring or any other harm caused by the infection. The damages must be directly attributable to the infection and the artist’s breach of duty.
To succeed in a personal injury case involving a tattoo infection, the plaintiff must establish all 4 elements of duty of care. This requires the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who can gather evidence, medical records and expert witnesses who can testify regarding the breach of duty, causation and resulting damages.
Who may be liable in a personal injury lawsuit for a tattoo infection?
In a personal injury lawsuit for a tattoo infection, several parties may potentially be held liable depending on the circumstances of the case. Here are some entities or individuals who may be held accountable:
- Tattoo artist. The primary party that may be held liable is the tattoo artist who performed the procedure. If the artist failed to meet the expected standard of care, such as by using unsterilized equipment, practicing poor hygiene, or providing inadequate aftercare instructions, they may be held responsible for the resulting infection and the resulting harm to the client.
- Tattoo shop or studio. In some cases, the tattoo shop or studio where the procedure took place may be held liable. If the establishment failed to maintain proper sanitation practices, did not provide adequate training to artists, or negligently hired unqualified personnel, they may share liability for the infection and resulting injuries.
- Manufacturer or supplier. If the infection was caused by contaminated tattoo ink or faulty equipment provided by a manufacturer or supplier, they may be held liable. This could involve a product liability claim, alleging that the ink or equipment was defective or unreasonably dangerous, leading to the infection.
- Medical professionals. In some cases, if the infection becomes severe or complications arise that require medical treatment, medical professionals involved in the treatment may be held accountable if they provided negligent or substandard care that exacerbated the infection or caused additional harm.
What steps should I take if I think my tattoo infection was caused by the shop or artist?
If you suspect that your tattoo infection was caused by negligence or unsanitary practices at the tattoo shop or by the artist, here are some steps you should take:
- Seek medical attention. The first priority should be to treat the infection. Consult a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.
- Document the infection. Take clear photographs of the infected area from various angles and at different times to track the progression of the infection.
- Save medical records. Keep all medical records, bills and prescriptions related to the treatment of the infection, as these can serve as evidence if you decide to take legal action.
- Collect evidence. If possible, obtain any evidence related to the tattooing process, such as consent forms, photographs of the shop’s setup, or any correspondence you may have had with the artist or shop.
- Gather witness statements. If anyone was with you during the tattoo session and can testify about the conditions or practices they observed, their account may be helpful.
- Consult a lawyer. If you believe you have a strong case, consult with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury or negligence cases. They can guide you through the legal process and help you assess whether you should proceed with a lawsuit.
Contact an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney
If you suffered a serious infection after getting a tattoo in Tampa, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo. We can evaluate your case and help you gather evidence to prove liability.
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but there are time limits for filing a claim, so the sooner you get started, the better.
Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights.