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Top 4 Ways to Avoid Professional Liability Issues: Advice from ABMP's Risk Management Expert


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If you’ve ever had to use your ABMP insurance benefit while dealing with a professional liability claim, you most likely interacted with our very best—Debbie Higdon, ABMP’s longtime risk management manager. Now, after nearly 27 years as part of our ABMP family, Debbie has decided it’s time to “go fishing.” Before heading off into retirement, we asked Debbie about risk management and her best advice for the ways practitioners can protect their livelihoods.

Q: Tell us about your time with ABMP and working with our members.

DH: The time I have spent working with our members and helping them through what can be a difficult time has been rewarding in so many ways and is what I felt was the most important part of my job. Over the years, I have worked with our members with a wide range of claims, from a massage therapist whose client suffers bruising or even displaced or broken ribs, to a table collapsing and the client suffering injuries. Our estheticians may have clients that suffer skin lifting and/or burns from waxing or a client suffering an injury from a chemical peel or product reaction. While some of these claims have resulted in somewhat low loss payments, some have resulted in claims over $100,000. These members would have suffered financial hardship if they had not had their insurance coverage as a benefit of membership.  

Q: Based on your experience, what’s your best bit of advice for practitioners when it comes to practicing safely and avoiding professional liability issues?

DH: I would advise our members to always stay within your scope of practice, do intake/medical histories, listen to your clients, and, if in doubt about providing services, listen to your gut and refer out if necessary. And now our members will have the highly talented Spencer Bellott to walk them through any of their claim’s issues. Spencer comes to ABMP with 10 years in the insurance industry and will provide the same customer service our members have always been accustomed to.

Q: How has the massage profession changed since you started?

DH: When I first started with ABMP, the profession was “recognized” but not to the extent we have seen since 1994. Massage is now widely accepted and recognized as beneficial, not only as a relaxation tool, but something necessary to help with their clients’ health and well-being.

Q: You’ve been at the heart of this organization for years—what sets ABMP above our competitors? What makes us special?

DH: I believe what sets us apart is that we have always had our members’ best interest at heart and that we strive to meet our “Expect More” credo. All 50-plus of our employees have one goal—to provide excellent service to our members, whether that is our membership team renewing their membership over the phone, our government relations team being ever involved on legislative issues, our communications department providing award-winning publications, our IS team working hard on keeping our systems running, our education department working with schools and students to help them achieve their goals, or our leadership team of Les Sweeney and Bob Benson who are completely hands-on and involved in all aspects of making us the best that is out there.  

Q: What are you looking forward to in retirement?

DH: I look forward to spending time in the mountains with my family; we really like to get into the outdoors. And, of course, fishing! 

Debbie Higdon

Put Debbie's best advice to work by checking out these ABMP member resources:

  • ABMP Pocket Pathology: A quick-reference that puts key information for nearly 200 common pathologies at your fingertips so you can make the best treatment decisions for your clients who live with health challenges. Learn more about this exclusive ABMP member benefit at
  • ABMP Members-Only Resource:Diagnose No, Refer Out Yes” exclusive video with Ruth Werner
  • ABMP Members-Only Resource: How to Do a Proper Health Intake” exclusive video with Ruth Werner


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