Posts Tagged ‘Fitness Instructor insurance’

Celebrity Trainer Client Suffers Injury and Files Lawsuit

When the trainer or facility is liable

Sore muscles and the occasional pulled ligament at the gym aren’t uncommon and are to be expected. Warming up before exercising and using the equipment correctly are the best ways to prevent injuries. One responsibility of the gym’s staff members and trainers is to assist clients in the proper use of the equipment.

Improper use of equipment and improper supervision can lead to serious trouble for both staff and clients.

A costly fall

A New York woman filed suit against her trainer after she was injured during a training session. According to the suit, Nicole Dickstein, 37, was seriously injured after falling off a balance ball. Dickstein alleges that the ball moved suddenly while she was standing on the side of the ball on one leg holding weights and with no support.

Dickstein’s $250 private training session with celebrity trainer Rich Barretta resulted in a torn hamstring. The injury required extensive surgery that included the insertion of hardware. The suit did not specify the damages Dickstein in seeking. The surgery alone had to run in the many thousands of dollars.

Injuries such as these not only rack up huge medical bills, but can incur the injured person lost wages, emotional trauma, hardship at home, and even derail life events such as weddings and vacations. If the trainer or the gym owner/operator is found liable for the injury, one or both can suffer huge financial losses, not only in compensation to the injured, but in attorney fees, court costs and more.

Protection for health clubs and trainers

We highly recommend that all personal trainers and fitness club owner/operators Treadmills as Health Club Risksread “Risks that Could Put Your Fitness Center Out of Business” and “Injuries at Gyms and Homes.”  

Sadler offers Fitness Instructor Insurance specifically designed to meet the unique needs of personal trainers of all types, including aerobics, yoga, and pilates.. We also offer several Health Club Insurance programs, one of which will meet your facility’s needs. You can get a fast quote by clicking the links above or calling 800-62-07370.

Source: Julia Marsh. “Mom sues celebrity trainer after suffering torn hamstring.” 05 Aug. 2016.

Injury Claims Unique to Health Clubs

What they are and how to reduce risk of occurrences

You work too hard at running your health club to risk it all. But it could easily happen if a client were to sue over something you simply overlooked. Health club General Liability claims typically arise out of the condition of the premises and equipment. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the facility should be performed, and clients always properly instructed on use of the equipment. The three most common claims unique to health clubs and fitness centers are:

  • Falls while stepping on or off of a moving treadmill. which is usually a user error . However, a liability claim can be filed if the injured person did not receive proper instruction on use of the treadmill.
  • Health club risk managementSlips/falls in wet areas. These claims usually occur in locker rooms and sauna, Jacuzzi and pool areas. Such falls are best prevented with non-slip mats and warning signage.
  • Slips/falls in exercise classes. Participants in group exercise classes slip or fall off step platforms and floors that become wet with perspiration and/or condensation from water bottles.

General Liability Risk Management

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk of injuries and claims being made against your facility.

Equipment Maintenance

  • Document and retain maintenance and repairs
  • Equipment safety signage should never be removed
  • Cardio and strength equipment should be checked daily
  • Power cords should be taped down to prevent trips and falls

Wet Areas

  • Non-slip floor mats and safety grab bars should be securely installed at showers/saunas/Jacuzzi exits
  • Signs warning “CAUTION: WET AREA” should be permanently displayed.
  • Members should be encouraged to wear non-slip footwear in wet areas

Group Exercise Area

The condition of group exercise equipment and floors should be checked daily, particularly worn step treads and worn, wet or damaged sections of the floor

Professional Liability Risk Management

Steps can be taken to reduce the risk injury claims being made against your facility resulting from something a staff member or independent contractor does or says (or fails to do or say).

Waiver/Release Forms

  • Have all clients, members and guests sign a waiver or release before using any part the facility. Members and clients should sign a new waiver/release upon renewal each year.
  • Waivers should state that “instruction on all equipment and facilities has been provided and/or offered” to the individual.


  • Fitness staff should physically demonstrate all equipment for new members and guests.
  • Renewing members should be offered refresher instruction and instructed on use of any newly purchased equipment.


  • Staff should all be trained in the proper use of all equipment upon hire and receive training on newly purchased equipment.
  • Fitness staff should be made aware of the policy they are expected provide proper equipment instruction to members and guests.
  • Staff should not exceed their qualifications for fitness and/or health training . Only staff with proper nutritional or medical certifications should offer recommendations in these areas.
  • Independent contractors should offer proof of individual professional liability coverage before working in the facility.

Emergency Procedures

  • All employees should receive a copy and acknowledge by signature receipt of the facility’s emergency procedures plan. This plans should include what steps to take in the event of injury, illness, fire, power outage, severe weather, etc.
  • The emergency plan should be reviewed with staff regularly during the year.
  • Staff who work on the fitness floor should be CPR and first aid certified. At least one CPR and first aid trained staff member should be on the floor at all times.
  • If the facility has an automatic external defibrillator (AED), at least one staff member with AED training should be on site at all times.

If you have questions regarding risk factors, please call us at (800) 622-7370, and you can visit our Health Club Insurance page to find a plan that suits your specific needs. We specialize in these areas:

Circuit Training

Day Spas

Exercise Studios

Fitness Clubs

Health Clubs

Pilates Studios

Yoga Studios


Injuries at Gyms and Homes

Thousands suffer in pursuit of fitness

Fitness Instructor Insurance and Health Club Insurance is in high demand due to frequent gym injuries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the following injury statistics occurred in 2009:

  • 1500 emergency room visits resulting from equipment related
    mishaps in gyms
  • 50,000 emergency room visits from home exercise equipment incidents including treadmill falls, exercise ball falls, elastic stretch band hits to face, and dropping free weights on feet.
  • Treadmills are the number one cause of equipment related injuries with 575 occurrences of falling off and tripping
  • Weight machines and free weights caused 224 injuries.
  • Common gym equipment related injuries include broken ankles,fractured arms, fractured legs, and fingertip amputations.

Fitness instructors cite the following reason for gym/exercise related injuries:

  • Inattention due to Ipods, cell phones, and reading
  • Using equipment for the first time without proper instruction
  • Working out too hard, too soon after a period of inactivity.


Fitness trainer settles wrongful termination lawsuit

Why fitness centers need Employment Practices Liability insurance

A fitness trainer settled his claim that he was wrongfully terminated by his employer, Best Fitness for $32,500. Salvatore Rachuna alleged he was fired because of complaints he made about a manager who repeatedly made inappropriate and lewd remarks in the presence of Best Fitness customers.

Rachuna was hired by Best Fitness in 2008 and worked in various positions in their Tonawanda, N.Y., and Erie, Penn., locations. In 2012 he began working under a new manager. His lawsuit claims that his supervisor repeatedly made “sexually advancing” comments regarding Best Fitness members and employees, both male and female. Rachuna’s complaint states the manager regularly discussed male genitalia size and the sexual activity of others and told sexual jokes about underage females.

Management’s response

Rachuna complained to the corporate vice president of personal training, who just happened to be the manager’s wife. He reported that he was uncomfortable and the behavior disruptive to the workplace. The only action she took was to tell Rachuna to “push back” anytime the manager, her husband, conducted himself inappropriately. The manager’s inappropriate behavior continued, so Rachuna made a formal complaint to the Best Fitness chief executive and human resources director in August, 2012. According to Rachnuna, his termination on Sept. 9, 2012 was a retaliatory action against his repeated complaints.

This case was one of two discrimination cases against Best Fitness arising from alleged actions of the Best Fitness manager. A separate complaint filed by a former group fitness director is pending. None of the complaints named the manager as a defendant.

What management can do

Defending against such claims can be costly. Employment practices lawsuits of this nature highlight the need for fitness centers to purchase Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), which can be purchased on a stand-alone basis or as part of a Directors & Officers Liability policy. EPLI policies generally cover the big three: discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination/discipline, plus a host of other employment related offenses.

If you are interested in a quote for this coverage, contact Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance or any other aspect of Fitness Traininer insurance. We will provide a simple form to complete that will allow us to provide you with a quick quote.

Source: Lisa Thompson, “Erie fitness center settles lawsuit,” Erie Times-News. 17 Aug, 2014.



Trampoline + Fitness Class = “Airobics”

Two popular physical activities merge

Trampoline parks are the fastest growing segment of the amusement business and personal fitness trainers are getting in on the action. And their clients are flying to trampoline parks fitness classes, happy to switch their routines up and add novelty moves to their workout regimens.

Why work out on a trampoline?

Trampoline aerobicsIn addition to experiencing a new workout routine and venue, there are other perks for participants. When the body engages in explosive moves or when jogging in place, 80 percent of the shock is absorbed by the trampoline. This makes for much lower impact that’s easier on the joints and ideal for anyone recovering from an injury.

Another benefit to exercising on a trampoline is the full-body workout it offers. An unstable surface such as a trampoline requires many muscles in various parts of your body to engage for balance control, which makes for an extra challenging workout.

“Working out on a trampoline can improve your coordination and agility and, since it puts your musculoskeletal system under slight stress, promotes stronger bones and can ward off osteoporosis,” according to Natalie Rado, a New York City personal trainer.

Adjusting to a new environment

Many of the exercises practiced in a regular gym environment, such as lunges, jumping jacks and kicks, and push-ups are easily done on the trampoline. Sometimes the entire trampoline is used to run laps and some activities are done with a small area. Equipment such as medicine balls, stretch bands, and small weights can also be easily incorporated into workouts, and the intensity scaled up or down to meet individual fitness levels.

There are valid concerns about trampoline safety in general. Only certified fitness trainers should be leading exercise class and be certified in CPR and first aid. Trainers should closely monitor participants at all times. Beefing up the workout shouldn’t require jumping at great heights or dangerous acrobatics, only intensifying the level of the regular workout.

Trainers and trampoline park operators, please visit our Trampoline Park Insurance page that includes tips on risk management. Or call us at 800 (622-7370).


Caitlin Carlson, “The New Workout You Have to Try,”, 16 July, 2013.

Briana Wipf,  “Trampolines add intensity to aerobic workouts,”,  24 June, 2014.



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.

Maintaining Fitness Center Equipment

An ounce of prevention could be worth hundreds of thousands

Did you hear the one about the fellow lifting weights while using a large exercise ball to support his back? As he was pumping two 40-lb. dumbbells in this position, the exercise ball seam suddenly split, deflating the ball and sending the man crashing to the floor. He suffered injuries to his wrists and back, which were treated, but he sued the fitness club and the manufacturer and distributor of the exercise ball for more than $5 million. Turns out he was an aspiring golfer hoping to join the PGA. He claimed the injuries derailed his career and potential prize winnings and product endorsement earnings.

Not just another frivolous lawsuit

The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that the club neglected “to conduct timely and adequate inspections of equipment for defects and potential hazards such as damage or excessive wear.” His claims were based on the ball manufacturer’s instructions indicating the product had a one-year life expectancy and should be checked “for wear “before each use.

After spending 2.5 years in court and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, a settlement was reached when the the fitness center was unable to document the date exercise ball was first put in use or provide an inspection record.

Preventing easily avoidable accidents

The manufacturers of each piece of equipment from treadmills to yoga mats comes with life expectancy and maintenance guidelines. To minimize the risk of Exercise ballan explosive situation like the one above, pay attention to, follow, and document compliance with the equipment manufacturer’s recommendations.

Replacing a piece of equipment is much cheaper, and safer, than the alternative.

A fitness center monthly equipment maintenance check should include, but is not limited to:

  • TV entertainment equipment and mounts .
  • Calibration and cleaning of cardio equipment per manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Inspection of treadmill belts and decks for wear.  Lubricate as needed.
  • Removal of treadmill motor shrouds for internal vacuuming.
  • Inspection of elliptical mechanical parts for wear. Lubricate as needed.
  • Inspect/lubricate bike chains, cranks, pedals and straps and replace as required.
  • Inspection of all strength training equipment, including but not limited to: adjusting cables, belts, pulley alignment, tightening bolts and adjusting range of motion cams.
  • Inspection of exercise class equipment, i.e. balls, steps, bands, weights, etc.

Source: Jeffrey Long.    To Avoid Lawsuits, Health Clubs Must Heed Equipment Life Expectancy,” Athletic Business. Sept. 2013

Defibrillator Failure: Fitness Center Liability

The importance of understanding and complying with AED laws

Defibrillator Maintenance of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and proper use are key to an effective emergency plan. A recent complaint filed in New York illustrates why health club owners must weigh the pros and cons of housing AEDS.*

The lawsuit was brought by a widow of a club member who died of cardiac arrest during a workout. Apparently, employees attempted to use both of the AEDs on the premises, only to discover a dead battery in one and none in the other, resulting in an unsuccessful revival attempt.

A laundry list of defendants and claims

Defendants in the case include the health club owner, Zee Medical, the seller of one AED, Hewlett Packard, Agilent Technologies, Philips Healthcare, and manufacturers and distributors of the second AED. The allegations include:

  • Failure to house functioning AEDs, as legally required in New York
  • Failure to properly maintain and test the AEDs
  • Failure to have in place proper equipment maintenance and testing procedures
  • Failure to properly train staff members in the use, maintenance, and testing of AEDs.

Allegations in the suit state that Zee sold the AED to the health club without a a battery and failed to provide a representative to install a battery and prepare the AED for proper use.  The complaint also alleges causes of action for product liability and breach of warranty.

Risk management is the key

It will be quite a while before this case goes to trial, and who’s to say a working AED would have saved this person’s life? The point is, failure of this type is easy to prevent, and a good AED representative can assist you in reducing risks by providing proper training on AED compliance.

*California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have laws requiring AEDs in health clubs.
Source: Richard Lazar. “Lawsuit Claims Two Non-Working Health Club AEDs Led to Member’s Sudden Cardiac Death,” Readiness Systems. 03 Mar. 2014.

Hiring Fitness Club Staff (Infographic)

Should you hire employees or independent contractors?

As a health club owner, you’ve likely looked at reducing employment and liability-related costs by hiring personal and group trainers, massage therapists and other client-dependent workers. There are both pros and cons when hiring employees and independent contractors.

Many club owners hire both employees and independent contractors, depending on the job and/or unique circumstances involved. The following points in the Infographic and information that follows it might help you to decide which is best for your business.

Trainers: Employees or Contractors

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  • When paying an independent contractor a flat fee or agreed upon percentage of services rendered, the club isn’t compensating the contractor unless he/she is generating revenue.
  • Many independent trainers and massage therapists offer their clients personal services off premises and many often sell supplements and therapeutic products as well. The club owner may face sales competition if those same or similar products are sold in the club.
  • Hiring an independent contract reduces the owner’s liability for negligence or errors & omissions by shifting much of this risk to the independent contractor. Club owners should request a current certificate of liability insurance from the contractor (and keep it on file) that lists the club as an “additional insured” on the policy.
  • It’s much simpler to terminate a contractor than an employee, but be careful that the courts would actually classify the worker as an independent contractor.
  • Club owners have little control over a contractor’s business style,  teaching methods     or attitude.
  • A contractor is usually entrepreneurial by nature, and can become your biggest competitor. He/she will be familiar with your club’s strengths and weaknesses, and more than likely will have been given access to the membership roster.

 A word about Workers’ Compensation

 It’s usually assumed that issuing a 1099 to contractors saves costs on employment taxes and Workers’ Compensation. Depending on state statutes, the nature of the relationship, and how the contractor agreement is worded, the club owner may still be responsible for taxes and the contractor’s Workers’ Compensation benefits. It’s important to have a clear agreement that stipulates the contractor is an independent contractor. However, just calling the worker an independent contractor in an agreement is just one of the factors that a court will take into consideration.

 Below are three basic elements that should be included in any independent contractor agreement:

  1. A clear understanding of the separate relationship
  2. A requirement that the contractor maintain his/her own insurance
  3. A hold/harmless statement or waiver indemnifying the club for the contractor’s negligence

Protecting yourself from liability claims

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

Insurance coverage does not have to be complicated. At SADLER, we understand your needs and the unique risks associated with your profession.

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

There are no obligation  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 have nothing to lose.

Critical Signage in a Fitness Center

Signs aren’t just for show

Signage in a fitness center serves several roles. Warning, policy / procedure, announcement and directional signs are all important to the safety of fitness center clients and protecting your business and staff from liability claims.


These signs serve as silent staff members, reminding clients of safety procedures and cautioning them of potential dangers. These can include warnings of wet floors in sauna/jacuzzi/pool/shower areas, improper use of equipment, and use of spotters in weight areas. Warning signs should be professionally printed and posted strategically where they can be seen clearly and at eye level, or no higher than 6’ from the ground.

Policies & Procedures

These range from general policies posted at the front desk to issues of sanitation and courtesy throughout the facility. Examples include minimum age requirements of clients, policies for use of the locker rooms and showers, and use of equipment. These signs should also be printed professionally and placed in close proximity to the relevant area(s) no higher than 4 to 6’ from the ground. Decals on mirrors and glass doors/windows are useful for attracting attention to certain policies or instructions.


Special events and classes take place in fitness centers on a regular basis. Signs alerting clients about the dates and details can be generated in-house by hand or computer and placed randomly, making sure they don’t interfere with or distract  from any safety or policy signs.


Signs denoting exits, ADA-facilities and equipment, emergency exit plans, location of safety equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, alarms, etc.) should be professionally generated and posted per building regulations.

Despite the best efforts of your staff, accidents and emergencies will occur.  Your facility should have written emergency procedures in the event an injury illness or an emergency such as fire,tornado, power outage.

  • Every staff member (including independent contractors and volunteers) should receive a copy of the emergency procedures and required to sign that they have read and understood them. These procedures should be reviewed regularly at least once a year.
  • Staff members who work on the fitness floor should have Red Cross training in first aid. At least one CPR-certified staff member should be on site at all times.
  • If there is AED equipment (defibrillator) on site, at least one staff member trained in the use of the AED should be on site at all times.

David L. Harlowe, Chapter 27: “Fitness Center Safety,” Risk Management In Sport, Third Edition, 2012.