You can sue the salon for a tanning bed burn if the negligence of the salon or its employees caused your injuries. This can happen if, for example, the tanning bed was not properly maintained or if an employee forgot to end your tanning session. These burn injuries can be serious. If you did not cause it, you deserve compensation.
Can a tanning salon be held liable for a tanning bed burn?
In some cases, yes. If the salon had a legal duty of care to keep you safe, failed to uphold that duty, and that failure caused your injuries, the salon can be held liable.
Tanning salons can fail to keep you safe in a wide variety of ways. Some of the most common include:
- poorly maintaining the tanning beds,
- negligently changing the bulbs in the beds so that some are stronger than others,
- taking responsibility for notifying you where your session is over, and then failing to do so,
- leaving the intensity of the ultraviolet, or UV light in the tanning bed too high, or
- pressuring you into purchasing a tanning package that would be unsafe.
If any of these courses of conduct or actions cause you to suffer a burn injury in the tanning bed, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the salon.
What are some defenses to overcome?
Tanning salons that are being sued over burns that happened in their beds generally raise the following 2 defenses:
- you were partially to blame for your injuries, and
- you assumed the risk of getting burned by using the tanning bed.
Contributory or comparative negligence
A common defense to a lawsuit against a tanning salon is that you were partially to blame for your injuries. If you were partially responsible, the amount of compensation that you will receive will be diminished. How much it gets diminished will depend on your state’s personal injury law.
You can be found partially responsible for a tanning bed burn if, for example, you:
- asked for the UV intensity to be put higher than it should have been,
- refused to wear sunscreen with an adequate SPF rating, or rejected sunscreen completely,
- incorrectly used a tanning lotion,
- requested a tanning package that was unsafe, over the concerns of the salon’s employees, or
- are an experienced sun tanner but ignored clear signs that the tanning bed was not working properly.
Many states, including California1 and Florida,2 follow comparative fault rules. In these states, the judge or jury in the personal injury trial will assign a percentage of fault for your burn injuries to the salon and to you. Your compensation will then be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example: A jury decides that you suffered $100,000 in damages from your tanning bed burn. However, it also finds that you were 20 percent at fault. You will only receive $80,000.
Some states, like Texas,3 modify these comparative fault rules. In these states, if you were more than half at fault, you will not be allowed to recover anything.
For example: A jury awards you $100,000 in compensation, but says that you were 55 percent at fault. If the case happened in Florida, you would receive $45,000. If it happened in Texas, you would receive nothing.
A couple of states, like Virginia,4 do not use comparative fault rules for these situations. Instead, they use contributory fault rules. In these states, if a jury finds that you were responsible at all for your injuries – even just 1 percent – you will not recover any compensation.
Tanning salons frequently raise comparative or contributory negligence as a defense. It can reduce the compensation they have to pay.
Assumption of the risk
Tanning salons are also likely to raise assumption of the risk as a defense to a lawsuit. This defense argues that the salon should not be held liable because you were engaging in an inherently dangerous activity. By choosing to go sun tanning, you assumed the risk of getting burned. Under this argument, the salon no longer had a duty to keep you safe from this foreseeable risk.
However, assumption of the risk generally does not protect the salon if it unreasonably increased your risk of getting burned.
What are some common injuries from sunbeds?
People who suntan in a salon are at risk for numerous injuries. Some of the most common injuries from indoor tanning are:
- first- or second-degree burns,
- skin cancer, like melanoma,
- eye damage, including cataracts, especially if you do not use proper sunglasses while tanning,
- premature aging, and
- actinic or solar keratosis.
If the salon or its employees caused any of these injuries through their negligence, they can be held liable for them.
If you suffer one of these injuries, it is critical to see a doctor or dermatologist right away. They can prescribe a healing process that will help you recover from overexposure to UV rays as well as UVA and UVB rays. Depending on your skin type and the extent of the skin damage, it often involves a mixture of:
- aloe vera lotion for the affected area,
- moisturizer for blisters and skin dryness,
- cool showers to treat the dry skin,
- a baking soda bath in cold water to help the skin heal,
- eating foods rich in vitamin D for their skincare properties,
- ibuprofen to reduce the pain from the stinging, and
- lots of hydration with cool water.
Getting the correct medical care from a doctor skilled in dermatology will also help you sue the salon. It will show that you took your medical treatment seriously and kept it from getting worse. If you only use home remedies to treat your condition, the salon can argue that you did not adequately mitigate your injuries.
Can the salon be held liable for an employee’s negligence?
Yes, all employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees, so long as the employee was acting within the scope of his or her job. This is called the doctrine of respondeat superior. Employers, including tanning salons, are liable for injuries caused by the negligence of their workers because mistakes are an inevitable risk of doing business.
This is important for victims of tanning bed burns. The employee is unlikely to be insured or have the means to pay for your injuries. The tanning salon, however, will likely have adequate insurance to fully compensate you for your losses. Implicating the salon in the lawsuit when it was the employee’s negligence that hurt you is critical.
What compensation could be available?
If you have gotten burned at a tanning salon through little or no fault of your own, you deserve compensation. That compensation should cover all of the losses that stemmed from the salon’s negligence or the negligence of its employees. Those losses include:
- medical bills,
- costs of future medical treatment,
- lost wages,
- reduced earning capacity,
- pain and suffering, and
- loss of consortium.
If the salon’s behavior was egregiously bad, you may also recover punitive damages.