Fitness Trainers: How To Avoid Liability Landmines (Infographic)

Legalities, liabilities and other not-so-fun stuff

Anyone willing to start up a business and risk personal and financial loss to live their dream has to have imagination.The fitness industry has its share of entrepreneurs, as seen in the boon of independent fitness instructors and personal trainers.

The practical aspects of creating and maintaining a business are just as important as creativity, passion and energy. Liability will always be an issue for fitness trainers because they offer a personal service. Protecting yourself, your business and your assets is a significant element of a successful personal training business. The first layer of protection is determining if you could defend yourself if a client under your supervision were to become injured. The key questions listed below the infographic will help you make this determination.

Protecting Clients

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  • Are you adequately trained and certified in the activities you supervise?
  • How did you screen the client for the activity in which he/she was involved?
  • Did the client sign an informed consent and release form?
  • Was the client given instructions appropriate for his/her age and health conditions?

Paperwork can be pesky, but it’s crucial

There are essential documents your clients must sign before receiving any services. Keeping these documents on file is important and might be be the key to any potential claim against you. Have an attorney review a draft of these documents to make sure you’re protected and looking out for the clients’ best interests. Below are four documents that should be part of  an independent personal trainer’s arsenal and signed by every client prior to any training :

  1. Waiver/release and assumption of risk.  At best, the waiver / release part of this form will allow the fitness trainer to escape liability by having the lawsuit dismissed on summary judgment. At worst, this form will help the trainer to establish an assumption of risk defense. This document should be reviewed with the client and the client be given the opportunity to ask questions about the risks and benefits of the program. The client should be over 18 years of age to sign or have a parent/guardian sign the form.
  2. Client records. Keep detailed records of all observations, program changes and instructions for each client. It’s important to include all special instructions, warnings or limitations, progress notes, and injury information including details of any aid administered.
  3. Physician consent/clearance. Clients you consider to be high or moderate risk should be required to obtain medical clearance. Risk level can be assessed by going over the client’s health and exercise history.
  4. Fitness assessment. Determining whether clients can safely participate in an exercise program without any obvious risks injury. An initial screening helps you establish the client’s fitness level and set goals for their individual program. Follow-up assessments should be repeated occasionally to monitor progress.

Risky business

Many personal trainers sell dietary supplements and offer nutritional advice to their clients. Counseling clients on supplements can be risky for trainers not specifically educated and certified in those areas. Only registered dieticians should recommend or supply nutritional supplements. Believe it or not, a personal trainer who supplies or distributes supplements can get caught up in a product liability suit.

Spotting potential risks

It’s important to let your clients know your job is to help, not push. Clients may, for whatever reason, neglect to inform trainers of a “minor” ache or pain. Let your clients know that their program can always be modified to avoid injuries, which often occur when red flags are ignored. Let clients know you’re trained to determine the difference between general soreness and actual strain.

Other helpful articles and downloadable forms are available on our risk management page.

Protecting you and your business from liability claims

Did you know that liability protection is critical for all fitness trainers? It only takes one injury-related lawsuit to financially ruin your and your fitness training business. Having the right insurance protection offers you peace of mind.

Finding the right insurance coverage doesn’t have to be complicated. Our insurance experts understand your needs and the unique risks associated with your personal training business.

If you would like to learn more about liability prevention or are ready to get a customized insurance quote, apply online now or call us 800-622-7370.

There are no obligation or commitments when you call, and your quote will be sent in just a few hours in most cases. With no application fees and the most competitive rates in the industry, you’ve got nothing to lose.


Source: “The Liability Involved in Running a Personal Training Business,” 22 May, 2014.