Yes, it is possible to sue a tattoo artist for bad work, but it’s not necessarily simple or straightforward. It would generally fall under the category of personal injury law, specifically negligence or breach of contract. 

Here’s how it could potentially work:

  • Negligence: If the tattoo artist was careless or did not follow industry standards, and you suffered harm as a result (like a serious infection from unsterilized equipment), you could have a negligence case. You would need to prove that the artist owed you a duty of care (which is generally assumed in any professional-client relationship), that they breached that duty, and that you suffered damages as a result.
  • Breach of contract: If the tattoo artist failed to deliver the agreed-upon service (for example, the design is drastically different from what you agreed upon), you may have a breach of contract case. Here, you would need to demonstrate that there was a clear agreement or contract (even verbal agreements can count), that the artist did not fulfill their end of the agreement, and that you suffered damages as a result.

Remember, though, that simply being unhappy with the aesthetic outcome of a tattoo might not be enough to win a lawsuit. Courts may consider whether your expectations were reasonable, whether you understood the risks involved (since no tattoo can be guaranteed to come out perfectly), and whether the artist misrepresented their skills or the potential outcome.

Additionally, many tattoo artists require clients to sign a waiver before the tattoo process begins, acknowledging the risks involved. These waivers can sometimes limit or negate the artist’s liability for certain types of claims.

As always, this is a general overview and not specific legal advice. The laws vary greatly by location and individual circumstance, and you should consult with a legal professional if you believe you have a case.

Common causes of tattoo infections

Tattoos are created by injecting ink into the skin using small needles. This process causes tiny puncture wounds and breaks the skin’s natural barrier against infections.

Here are some common causes of tattoo infections:

  • Unsterilized equipment: If the tattooing equipment isn’t properly sterilized, it can transmit bacteria or other pathogens, leading to infection. This is why it’s crucial to choose a reputable tattoo artist who follows strict hygiene protocols.
  • Poor aftercare: After getting a tattoo, it’s important to keep the area clean and moisturized to support healing and prevent infection. Neglecting aftercare instructions, such as not cleaning the tattoo or exposing it to dirty environments, can lead to infections.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may have allergic reactions to certain types of tattoo ink, especially colored ones. This isn’t an infection per se, but it can cause similar symptoms like redness, swelling, and itchiness.
  • Contaminated ink: In rare cases, the tattoo ink itself may be contaminated with bacteria or other pathogens, which can cause infection when injected into the skin.
  • Poor health or weakened immune system: If your overall health isn’t great or your immune system is compromised, you may be more susceptible to infections in general, including tattoo infections.
  • Tattooing in unhygienic conditions: Getting a tattoo in an unclean environment, like a home setup without proper sterilization procedures, increases the risk of infections.

What Do I Do If My Tattoo Artist Messed Up?

Mistakes can happen, even when working with a professional tattoo artist. If you notice a mistake with your tattoo, whether it’s an incorrect design, misspelled words, or any other issue, here are some steps you can take:

  • Calmly Discuss the Issue: First, calmly and politely bring up the issue with your tattoo artist. They may not have realized there was a problem, and it’s essential to give them the opportunity to address it. A professional artist will be willing to listen and discuss potential solutions.
  • Ask for a Touch-Up or Fix: In some cases, a simple touch-up or fix can correct the mistake. If the issue is more complex, like a misspelled word or the wrong color, the artist may need to get creative with the fix, possibly transforming the error into a different part of the design.
  • Consider Tattoo Removal or Cover-up: If the mistake is significant and can’t be easily fixed, you might want to consider getting the tattoo removed or covered up. Tattoo removal is typically done with laser treatments, which can be expensive and require multiple sessions. A cover-up involves getting another tattoo over the existing one to hide the mistake.
  • Seek Professional Advice: If you’re unsure of the best course of action, consider consulting with another tattoo professional. They can provide an objective opinion and may suggest a creative solution.
  • Legal Action: If the mistake is egregious, and the tattoo artist isn’t willing to provide a resolution, you may want to consider taking legal action. However, keep in mind that this should be a last resort, and you should consult with a legal advisor before proceeding.

The Process of Pursuing a Tattoo Malpractice Lawsuit

In the event that a tattoo goes seriously wrong due to negligence or malpractice, you may consider pursuing a legal remedy. Here’s a general outline of the process:

  • Document Everything: Evidence is crucial in a lawsuit. This includes photos of the tattoo immediately after it was done and as it healed, any communication with the tattoo artist or studio, medical records if you sought treatment for an infection or other complications, and receipts for any related expenses.
  • Establish Negligence: To win a malpractice lawsuit, you typically have to prove that the tattoo artist was negligent. This means showing that they did not meet the standard of care that a reasonable tattoo artist would have met under the same circumstances. Examples could include using unsterilized equipment, failing to provide appropriate aftercare instructions, or making a significant mistake with the tattoo.
  • Show Damages: You will also need to show that you suffered damages as a result of the negligence. This could be physical harm (like a serious infection or scarring), emotional distress, or financial costs (like medical bills or the cost of tattoo removal).
  • File a Lawsuit: If your lawyer believes you have a strong case, they will help you file a lawsuit. This usually involves drafting and filing a complaint with the court and then serving it on the defendant (in this case, the tattoo artist or studio).
  • Negotiation and Trial: Once the lawsuit is filed, there may be negotiations for a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will go to trial where both sides will present their evidence and arguments, and a judge or jury will make a decision.

Seeking Legal Advice: Consult a Lawyer for a Tattoo Dispute

If you are having a dispute with a tattoo artist, it is important to consult with a lawyer to discuss your legal options. A personal injury lawyer can help you to understand your rights and to protect your interests.