As a personal trainer working at a gym or independently, you must protect yourself from legal claims for an unfortunate incident with a client by getting professional liability insurance and keeping to some professional guidelines.
Even if you have an employer, the company may require you to carry private liability insurance. Taking the proper measures can help you reduce risk and damages, helping protect your reputation as a personal trainer.
Reducing the Risk of Negligence
You are responsible for offering proper instruction and safety that match industry standards.
However, some potentially unfortunate incidents can occur during a training session. These include:
- An injury from improper instruction
- An injury that follows a recommended exercise program
- A client who is dissatisfied with your training services
- A post-exercise injury after a strenuous training session.
If an unfortunate incident results in any injury, the law calls this negligence based on your failure to provide the specific knowledge, care, or skills for your profession. Therefore, you have a legal obligation to care for your clients based on the industry standards to prevent an injured client from proving negligence.
Four Elements of Negligence
In the U.S. legal system, four elements can prove negligence: duty, breach, cause, and harm.
- Your professional duty to your client during training sessions includes proper instruction, supervision, a safe exercise program, and a secure environment.
- Breach of duty comes from the absence of proper care, leading to a client’s injury.
- Cause means that your breach of duty directly caused your client’s injury.
- Harm is when the client suffers an injury because of your direct breach of duty.
Since it is inevitable that when a client files a lawsuit, they will employ a lawyer as the defendant, you should do the same. Liability insurance is the best way to protect yourself from the legal costs and the time required to fight a negligence case.
Understanding Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance (errors and omission insurance) protects you from lawsuits. However, it can also save you from libel or slander (personal injury), bodily injury, and property damage to others. Personal liability insurance usually includes sexual misconduct, any temporary staff you hire, independent contractors, and an investigation by the licensing board.
The insurance can protect you in many ways, even if you work for a gym, because the client may choose to file a lawsuit against the business and you. Your insurance coverage could also cover your legal defense, loss of earnings during the proceedings, and any medical expenses.
Understanding General Liability Insurance
General or commercial liability protects your business premises from property damage and physical risks (slips and falls), unlike professional liability, which covers your services.
Reducing Legal Risks as a Personal Trainer
As a fitness professional, your training ensures you offer the best fitness training for your clients’ needs and safety. However, despite your best efforts, there might come a time when you face a lawsuit from an unforeseen eventuality.
Good liability insurance remains vital, but by following the best practices, you can ensure client safety at all times. For example, ensure that your clients sign essential documents before receiving your services, and always keep these on file. In addition, make sure the wording of the papers protects your and your client’s interests by getting an attorney to check them.
Start with an initial screening to determine the person’s fitness level and if the client can safely participate in the exercise program without risking injury.
Always Stay in Focus
Remain focused during each training session so you can give the correct instruction and supervise clients properly in all their physical activities. Let your clients know that you aim to help them without pushing them, encouraging them to let you know when they need you to modify the program.
Get Informed Consent
You need to ensure your client, and you understand their goals, exercise program, whether there are any potential risks, various medical issues, etc. Then, after discussing these verbally, get these written down. Anyone considering a moderate or high-risk client because of their health and exercise history should bring you a medical clearance.
Always keep track of your clients’ progress to ensure they are making the desired progress. Discuss their progress and changes before making the necessary modifications. Data shows that the better your relationship, the less likelihood of a client instituting a lawsuit after an unfortunate incident.
Plan Your Sessions
If you are rushing from one client to the other, the chances are that you won’t be as focused, leading to mistakes. Always leave enough time between sessions for you to take a break and transition to the next client.
Know the Latest Trends
Once you qualify as a personal trainer, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to continue educating yourself. Keep up with your industry’s latest research, trends, and training techniques to keep your practice professional and decrease the likelihood of injuries.
Keep a Record
By keeping a record of each client session, like a recording or notes, you can access important details about the exercise program, any occurrences during the training session, acute variables, etc. These records can even help you plan the next exercise session.
Waiver/Release and Assumption of Risk
A waiver/release form can protect you from liability during a lawsuit dismissed. Even in a worst-case scenario, the form will help you establish an assumption of risk defense. Always review the document with the client, allowing them to ask questions about the benefits and risks of the program they will follow. If you take on clients younger than 18, a parent/guardian must sign the form.
Protect yourself from personal injury claims with the steps mentioned above and good liability insurance that gives you peace of mind.