Lessons in Student Liability Insurance

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Lessons in Student Liability Insurance

When Juliana Barron enrolled in massage school, part of her tuition fee went toward the purchase of massage student liability insurance. Now more than six months into her program at Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado, Barron appreciates the peace of mind that comes along with liability coverage.

"Having liability insurance makes me feel protected," Barron said. "If anything happens, my clients will be able to rectify the situation."

According to Mark Manton, director of Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado, in Denver, massage students from the school provide massage therapy to members of the public during massage clinics, as well as at numerous community outreach events.

"If an accident occurred, such as someone getting up from a massage and fainting or stumbling and falling, or if someone was injured by a massage technique, then it is important that funds are available through insurance programs to help the injured person recover," Manton said, "and to protect the school, faculty and students from the possible expenses that can accrue as the result of an injury."

This protection is among the main reasons Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado has built massage student liability insurance into the tuition fee for the school, so every student is covered from day one.

However, not all massage schools purchase coverage for each incoming student, so it's important for massage students to do their homework when it comes to liability insurance. Find out whether your school has a policy that will protect you, or whether you want to seek out massage student liability insurance on your own.

"Most schools do not require students to carry their own insurance, and some schools provide only general protection for their students while enrolled," said Heather Alves, director of Massage Magazine Insurance Plus. "Either way, it is important that students understand the extent to which they are protected by their school policy."


Learning Through Experience

Massage is a hands-on career, and a key piece of training to become a professional massage therapist is hours of tactile practice. Typically, massage students provide massages to one another, along with school staff, as well as members of the public during student clinics and various community events.

"The benefits of providing massage while a student are important and include gaining experience with a variety of clients, products and techniques," Alves said. "However, these benefits must be balanced with an understanding of exposure to liability-when students work with public clients during clinical hours, they are open to the maximum amount of risk for liability."

Taking the possible risks of massage therapy into account can help students understand why they may need massage student liability insurance. The bottom line is that even though massage is a fairly low-risk profession, accidents happen-and when they do, massage liability insurance is designed to provide the necessary financial protection.

"People can be injured by massage," Manton said. "Hot stones might cause a burn; working on the elderly may cause osteoporotic bones to fracture; [clients can experience] bruising and muscle tears; disk injuries might occur with [range of motion] and stretch techniques; [and] if a contraindication is not observed properly, injury can result."

These are only a few examples of the risks that can come with giving massage. Others include clients simply slipping and falling in or around the massage session, as well as accidents associated with products, such as an allergic reaction to an ingredient in a massage lubricant.

"I think a lot of students are under the impression that if the school has coverage, which most do, that the student is somehow protected," said Kevin McCarthy, managing director of Massage Magazine Insurance Plus. "However, the school's policy may cover the school and not necessarily the student."

If your massage school does not include the purchase of individual massage student liability insurance with the price of enrollment, then it may be wise to consider purchasing such a policy on your own.


Understanding Liability Coverage

One of the primary reasons for massage students to purchase liability insurance is the peace of mind that comes with knowing one is covered just in case an accident does happen. With student insurance, the student should receive the same thorough coverage as a professional massage therapist.

"Coverage for massage students is no different than [coverage] for professionals," Alves said. "General, professional and product coverage are the three most important and cover the majority of situations."

Typically, these three forms of coverage are all packaged together in one liability policy for massage students. This means the student will get professional, general and product liability coverage with his or her purchase.

"Most of these policies are very inexpensive—we sell ours for $25," McCarthy said. "It's a very inexpensive way to transfer the risk from the student to the insurance company in case something unforeseen happens."

If that unforeseen happening is a client injury due to a lack of skill or competence on the part of the massage student, the situation would trigger the policy's professional liability coverage, also known as malpractice insurance.

If an injury occurs as the result of an accident around the session space, such as a slip and fall, rather than anything directly related to the massage session, then coverage would come from the general liability portion of the policy.

The third component, product liability, covers those instances where a client may be injured or adversely affected by a product used during the massage, such as a lubricant that causes an allergic reaction or hot stones that are overheated and burn the client's skin.

"The concept behind liability insurance is that you can eliminate the risk of facing a very significant financial penalty for something that just happened-something that was not your fault or was not intended but happened on your watch," McCarthy said. "In exchange for the cost you pay for the coverage, you've transferred that financial risk to the insurance company."

Editor's note: The American Massage Therapy Association and Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals were asked to contribute to this article but declined.

Learn more about massage liability insurance at MASSAGE Magazine's Massage Liability Insurance Resource Center, including:

* the difference between individual-limit and shared-limit policies

* what to do when your employer or school insurance doesn't cover you

* how occurrence policies differ from claims-made policies

Brandi Schlossberg is an avid bodywork client and full-time journalist based in Reno, Nevada. She has written on many topics for MASSAGE Magazine, including "Build A CAM Network" (May) and "The Benefits of Specialization" (June).

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