Why massage therapist liability insurance matters.
When it comes to finding and selecting a Massage Therapist, people have more choices than ever. When researching which therapist, spa or service to utilize, the information a consumer would gather will generally fall into two separate categories (I’ll be focusing on the latter):
The first is subjective, or qualitative. In other words, we’re talking about opinions rather than cold hard facts. For example, a therapist can make pretty much any claim they want, either verbally or in their marketing, about how talented they are, how good they can make you feel, how they can fix your problems, etc. These are opinions, not facts.
Then there are facts that can be substantiated, for example whether or not the therapist has a license to practice in a given jurisdiction, how long a therapist has been licensed, whether or not the therapist has ever been officially sanctioned, what certifications they have, and so on. These are hard facts that can be proven and verified, not opinions.
There is an additional item falling into this latter category that many clients do not research or verify, yet is extremely important: the question of whether or not a therapist and/or (if applicable) the company they are working for is adequately insured.
Many independent Massage Therapists do possess professional Massage Therapist liability insurance, as they should. However many others do not think they need it and most states do not require that they carry it. Those who do not carry liability insurance are not going to promote this fact, so it is up to the consumer to consider this.
Liability insurance for Massage Therapist is very inexpensive. Your Massage Therapist can get millions of dollars in liability insurance for about $.25 a day. The reason that it is so inexpensive is because it is very rare that a Massage Therapist needs to use their liability insurance. Massage is generally very safe and extremely unlikely to cause any sort of injury to a client where insurance would come into play.
That said, in rare instances a problem can arise. Of course there is the possibility of an injury caused by malpractice, but sometimes it is something that doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the actual massage technique. A therapist might accidentally drip some oil on a hard floor whereupon a client might slip and fall and injure him or herself as a result of that. Liability insurance would cover this type of slip and fall incident as well, which just goes to show how important it is that insurance is carried by the practitioner.
Beyond the therapist, in cases where a therapist is working on behalf of, or as a contractor for some other company or service, it is important that the larger entity also carries some form of insurance. There could be highly unpredictable situations where an injury can occur involving a Massage Therapist that is not covered under the primary policy. This comes into play even more so when you have traveling or mobile massage therapists coming to your home. Issues surrounding their automobile and other things that could occur before or after the actual massage has taken place that may not be covered by the individual practitioner’s policy, but would most likely be covered under the corporate umbrella policy.
The massage therapy industry is still relatively young and evolving, and there are many players within it who are not accustomed to attending to important business needs such as corporate umbrella liability insurance, which, unlike insurance for the individual practitioners, can be very expensive depending on how the business operates and how many people are involved.
At the same time, we are witnessing the rise of some technology companies that are acting as intermediaries between clients and massage therapists, but which will not necessarily take responsibility for things that might occur once that digital connection or online transaction has been made.
As an example, let’s take one of these new massage companies claiming to be the “Uber” of massage. (Uber is the “taxi” service that allows people to find a ride nearby using an app). It sounds great in theory, but just look at Uber; when faced with complaints or lawsuits because of something that occurred relative to one of their drivers and a user/passenger, they claim that they are not the ones providing the service. They claim that they are just providing the “platform” or doing some marketing and intermediating. They won’t accept complete responsibility for the services they are arranging. This is potentially problematic for the consumer who thought they knew who they were dealing with.
The same can happen now in the world of massage. A person books a massage through an app with a company that appears to be providing the service, but in the event that something goes wrong, that company may well claim that they are in fact not the service provider, and by the way, they do not carry an umbrella insurance policy to cover the practitioner or any other aspect of the provided service. Sorry for the misunderstanding dear customer!
So when it comes to liability, we have to be cautious when we see some of the lines becoming blurred between who is marketing and promoting a massage therapy service online and who is actually the service provider. What is the customer’s recourse in case of an incident?
In most states, massage therapy is an officially sanctioned and licensed healthcare service. It’s not just fun and games – it’s serious business, or at least it should be viewed as such by those wishing to participate in the marketplace! Consumers need to raise their awareness and expectations about the level or responsibility being assumed by the provider (or intermediary) when receiving these kinds of services. Even those just looking for a little relaxation should expect that the individual or company that they are dealing with is doing so in a transparent and responsible way, including carrying more than enough insurance to cover any and all possible liability situations, so that if something unforeseen does occur, there is adequate recourse.
Dan Melmed, LMT
Owner & Founder, Body Well Mobile Massage