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Professional Indemnity Insurance for Massage Therapists

Written by

Shaun McGowan

As a Massage Therapist your role involves collecting data about your clients, assessing their physical condition, and giving them appropriate advice and treatment. Depending on each client’s needs you may be correcting an issue or imbalance, or relieving pain from an underlying condition.

You may also provide advice on ways to relieve their symptoms between treatments, such as exercises, posture or diet. You are a trained professional with qualifications and knowledge your clients lack, so they are legally entitled to rely on any advice you provide, and to expect you to provide a safe and professional service.

Since you are providing a hands-on treatment there is always a risk that something could go wrong. In addition to the risk of causing physical harm to a client, you could also face claims of negligence leading to financial loss.

Unfortunately there are many reasons why a client may choose to take action against you. They could claim that:

  • You were negligent in collecting information about their medical history, and made an error in your assessment of their condition and needs
  • You did not provide the service you advertised
  • You physically hurt them during a treatment
  • You used oils or other products that caused them harm
  • You touched them in an inappropriate way
  • You gave them incorrect or incomplete advice on ways to relieve their symptoms
  • You breached their confidentiality by sharing information about them without their permission

Why do Massage Therapists need professional indemnity insurance?

The Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) is the peak body for professional Massage Therapists and other natural health practitioners in Australia. To become a member of ANTA you are required to have professional indemnity insurance of at least $1m, to cover damages and legal expenses in the event that you cause harm or financial loss to a patient in the course of your work.

If you are not a member of ANTA it is still vital that you protect yourself with professional indemnity insurance. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • If a patient experiences pain or other symptoms after a treatment they may attribute these to you, and it may be very difficult to establish whether or not this is justified.
  • While giving a treatment your clients may be unclothed and feeling vulnerable. - If they are unhappy with the way you touch them while delivering treatment they could claim inappropriate behaviour or sexual assault. This type of allegation could be catastrophic for your reputation and may be extremely difficult to disprove, incurring extremely high legal costs.
  • In the course of your work you will gather personal information about your clients and you have a strict duty to keep this information confidential. If you share it with a third party, even by accident, you could be sued for breach of privacy.
  • Like any service-based business you rely heavily on your reputation. So if a client makes a negligence claim against you, even if it is unjustified, you will need to defend that claim, whatever the cost of your legal fees.
  • If a client were to sue you for professional negligence your business assets would be at risk – and so would your personal assets, such as your home.

What does professional indemnity insurance cover?

If you already have public liability insurance in place this will safeguard you should someone have an accident at your clinic, or if you accidentally cause injury or damage to someone’s property while at work.

Your professional indemnity insurance protects you against the risk that you do something in the course of your work that causes harm to a patient – for example, if you make a mistake, or if a client BELIEVES you have been negligent or failed to deliver the services they have paid for.

Professional indemnity insurance covers your legal costs if you have to defend yourself against a negligence claim, as well as any damages you are required to pay (up to the limit in your policy) if the claim against you is successful.

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How much is professional indemnity insurance for Massage Therapists?

There are several factors that will have an impact on the cost of your professional indemnity insurance. These include:

  • Your annual turnover
  • The amount of cover you wish to take out
  • Whether you work from a clinic or at your clients’ homes
  • Whether you have ever made a claim under professional indemnity insurance before

You may have the option to add extra features to your cover, such as automatic reinstatement of your policy (so that you will still have insurance cover even after making a claim), which will increase the cost of your insurance.

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Professional indemnity insurance case study

A client visited a Massage Therapist suffering from pains in her neck and shoulders. The therapist took notes on the client’s medical history but failed to request details of any allergies she had, and the client did not advise that she was allergic to citrus.

The Massage Therapist proposed a deep tissue massage to the neck, back and shoulders and proceeded to give the treatment. He used an essential oil blend including citrus oils.

Following the treatment the client experienced a severe rash on her back and shoulders. In addition she felt that she had received no relief from her symptoms, and the next day began to experience severe pains in her lower back. The rash subsided after a few days but the lower back pains persisted until the client underwent a course of treatment from a physiotherapist.

During this period the client was unable to drive and missed several meetings with potential clients. She decided to sue the Massage Therapist for negligence, claiming that:

  • He had failed to collect information about her allergies and as a result had used an unsuitable product, causing her short-term physical harm.
  • He had failed to deliver the services for which she had paid, since his treatment was unsuccessful.
  • He had caused an injury to her lower back during the course of his treatment, which led to both physical harm and financial loss.

The client sought compensation for the cost of the physiotherapy treatment and the lost income while unable to drive, plus damages for the physical harm inflicted during the massage.

The negligence suit was upheld. It was clear that the therapist had been remiss in the collection of information about his patient, and the physiotherapist testified on behalf of the client that the damage to her lower back injuries was most likely caused during the massage. The Massage Therapist was required to pay compensation of $32,000 to the client, and incurred legal costs of $17,500. Both these were covered by his professional indemnity insurance and he paid an excess of just $[xxx] on the claim.

List of massage therapy services that need professional indemnity insurance

If you are a Massage Therapist offering any of the following services it’s crucial that you protect yourself from the risk of a negligence claim with adequate professional indemnity insurance, even if you are not a member of ANTA.

  • Aromatherapy massage
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Back massage
  • Balinese massage
  • Body alignment
  • Chair massage
  • Connective tissue massage
  • Cranial sacral therapy
  • Deep tissue massage
  • Full body massage
  • Geriatric massage
  • Hot stone massage
  • Jin Shin Do
  • Kriya massage
  • Lymphatic massage
  • Maya abdominal massage
  • Neuromuscular therapy
  • Oncology massage
  • Orthopaedic massage
  • Pregnancy / prenatal massage
  • Reflexology
  • Reiki
  • Remedial massage
  • Russian massage
  • Shiatsu massage
  • Soft tissue release
  • Spinal release
  • Sports massage
  • Swedish massage
  • Thai massage
  • Trigger point massage
  • Tui Na Chinese massage
  • Vibrational healing massage therapy

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from money.com.au

Shaun

McGowan

Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of Money.com.au and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded CarLoans.com.au and Lend.

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