A recent survey revealed that 3 out of 10 Americans have at least one tattoo, making it one of the most common forms of artistic expression. While tattoo parlors generally take heavy precautions to keep their clients safe, there is a certain level of risk that comes with getting inked—and unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for even a completely healthy person to face complications after the procedure.

Usually, tattoos cause little more than manageable pain and temporary itchiness, but sometimes, tattoos can lead to potentially life-threatening infections that require swift treatment. Before getting a tattoo, it’s important to understand the risk factors so that you can do your best to ward off infection. If you believe your tattoo is already infected despite taking all the precautions, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm it’s caused.

Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo infections and the circumstances that warrant taking legal action to recover damages.

What Causes a Tattoo Infection?

While tattoos are generally safe, there are a handful of risk factors that can lead to infection and harm the health of a recipient. 

Scenarios that can provoke tattoo infections include:

  • Using contaminated or unsterilized tattoo equipment or failing to wash up and put on gloves before performing the procedure.
  • Applying the tattoo in an unclean area of the body.
  • Getting tattooed by an inexperienced or uncertified artist.
  • Failing to follow the tattoo artist’s skincare instructions after getting inked.
  • Swimming before the tattoo has fully healed, potentially exposing the ink to harmful bacteria in the water.
  • Wearing clothes that prevent the tattoo from healing—either by rubbing up against the newly inked area or cutting off airflow.
  • Massaging infected creams into the skin, which may alleviate discomfort at first but can expose the tattoo to new bacteria.

Sometimes, a tattoo infection is caused by negligence on the tattoo artist’s part. Other times, it can be a result of improper post-procedure care. That’s why it’s so important to be selective with who you commission for a tattoo and follow all of the artist’s guidelines afterward to promote safe healing.

How Do I Know If My Tattoo Is Infected?

There are several potential indicators that you are experiencing a tattoo infection. Common symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the tattooed area
  • Fever
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Pus & discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lesions & abscesses
  • Discolored streaks

Mild pain, redness, and itchiness can be normal after getting a tattoo, but there’s a line where seemingly normal symptoms can be cause for concern. Coming down with a fever, for example, shortly after getting inked is never a good sign and should be taken seriously. 

Extreme infections may cause discolored streaks to appear around the tattoo, which is a common indication of blood poisoning and must be addressed immediately.

How Are Tattoo Infections Treated?

Minor infection symptoms are usually addressed with over-the-counter medications. Tylenol and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation, and antihistamines like Benadryl can help with mild allergic reactions that appear in the form of small bumps or light rashes.

More severe infections require more official medical attention and can be potentially life-threatening. If symptoms are persistent or extreme, the person should see a medical professional for further analysis.

A doctor will examine the tattooed area for signs of an infection and may take skin or blood samples for testing. The severity and type of infection will determine the treatment plan, but in many cases, doctors will end up prescribing antibiotics in the form of pills, liquids, or topical creams. Sometimes, more individualized care is urgent and necessary.

Before considering any legal action, it’s important to ask who’s at fault for the infection. If complications are a result of the tattoo artist’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and costs endured. On the flip side, if your tattoo was infected because you didn’t take proper care of the area while it was healing, you won’t have grounds for suing since you’re the one who’s liable.

Let’s say you’re pretty confident that the tattoo parlor is mostly to blame for your infection. Your best bet for collecting damages will be to bring a negligence claim. Proving negligence on the part of a tattoo artist can be tricky, which is why personal injury lawyers are often brought in to develop a convincing case.

In order to hold a tattoo parlor accountable for personal damages, you’ll have to show that they failed to maintain a reasonable standard of care. 

Here are a few steps that tattoo artists in Texas are required to follow by law in order to keep clients safe:

  • Prominently displaying up-to-date licenses, so they’re visible to the public.
  • Inquiring about the client’s medical history and allergies.
  • Confirming that the client is at least 18 years old (or accompanied by a parent or guardian).
  • Using sterilized needles and equipment to prevent transmission of bacteria, viruses, and disease.
  • Washing hands with antibacterial soap and putting on single-use gloves before the procedure.
  • Disinfecting the area of the client’s skin where the tattoo will be applied.
  • Giving the client instructions on how to take care of the tattoo post-procedure.

If a tattoo parlor failed to follow any of these rules during your appointment, then they failed to provide the safe experience you were promised and can be held accountable for breaching the duty of care. 

Alternatively, if your tattoo infection is a consequence of a defective piece of equipment, you might have a legitimate product liability case on your hands. 

What if Multiple Parties Share Blame?

In Texas, anyone who contributes to an accident or causes an injury shares responsibility for the consequences. So, for example, it could be that the tattoo parlor and a defective product contributed to a tattoo infection. If they are both allocated 50 percent of the blame, each is on the hook for 50 percent of the damages.

Under the state’s modified comparative fault system, victims can also contribute an injury and still have the right to seek compensation from others. As long as the victim’s share of the blame doesn’t exceed 50%, the right to recover damages is preserved.

Consult a Lawyer to Discuss Your Options

There’s an assumed risk that comes with getting a tattoo—and the defense will use that to try and discredit your case—but if you think the tattoo artist’s actions still qualify as negligence, it’s worth taking legal action.