As a fitness trainer, your main focus is preparing classes and helping individual clients reach their fitness goals. You further need to develop your exercise and sports knowledge and understand the operational aspects of your own business.
Many fitness trainers start their business knowing how to perform a squat or warrior pose and only later learn how to market themselves, account for taxes, file an incorporation or business name, and understand their legal risks and liabilities.
Lawsuits are ultimately an expensive and stressful process you don’t want to go through. So, knowing your legal liabilities as a fitness trainer helps you mitigate the risks of being sued. In this article, we will explain three legal liabilities fitness trainers may face in their day-to-day affairs.
Professional liability occurs when you provide negligent services, or when your services don’t live up to your stated expectations. As a result, a client might have the right to sue you.
You always want to push your clients to their next personal best. But suppose you’re teaching a man in his 40s how to perform a deadlift. If you push him to reach a new record and he hurts himself in the process, you may be found negligent. Your client may then sue you for his injuries, pain and suffering, and more.
Such a lawsuit can require thousands in legal fees and tens of thousands in damage awards. For many fitness trainers, these legal costs are enough to sink their business. At the very least, it’ll be an enormous stressor if you don’t mitigate such risks.
Unfortunately, there are also times where clients may make a false claim that they were injured under your guidance. The onus is on you to defend yourself and prove that is not the case all while racking up legal fees. You will still be responsible to pay those legal costs if you don’t have insurance.
Some clients may not require a formal contract listing your services, the time frame, costs, and other details. But if you work with a training facility or gym, they’ll likely make you sign a contract and hold your relationship to the legally binding document.
Breaking your contract could mean penalties and other legal liabilities. It’s essential to work with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer who can read over a contract’s fine print before you sign.
General liability involves day-to-day legal risks. It usually includes your client or a third party facing bodily injury or property damage at your “worksite”.
For example, suppose you provide yoga lessons at the park, and a dog bites one of your students. While the student may sue the dog owner, they could further sue you to maximize their chances at a damage award. Although you didn’t cause the injury, you may have had a duty of care to ensure the safety of anyone attending your class.
Similar to professional liability, general liability may stick your business in a lawsuit filled with legal fees and damage awards that you can’t afford to pay.
Protect yourself from legal liabilities
One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from professional and general liability and a host of other business risks is the right business insurance plan. The proper policies can cover the cost of legal fees and damage awards if a client, partner, or third party ever sues you. Some insurers further take over the lawsuit and handle each stage on your behalf.
It’s also vital to work with a lawyer as you manage stakeholders and contracts. Most contracts between gyms and their trainers and class instructors also mandate professional and general liability insurance.
Your liability waiver is another way to protect yourself, but this is not a substitute for insurance. Even well drafted waivers can leave you exposed to potential lawsuits from clients. The waiver is another tool in your toolkit, but proper insurance coverage is what will ultimately protect you.
In the end, being a fitness instructor has many inherent legal risks. It’s crucial to understand what harms could come your way and how to best avoid them with services such as legal help and insurance.