Personal Trainers: Insurance and Other Ways to Protect Your Career

Personal Training

Personal Trainers: Insurance and Other Ways to Protect Your Career

Whether you are employed at a gym or working independently, protecting yourself against potential legal issues is a necessary part of managing your career. Despite your best efforts and intentions, accidents sometimes do happen, so it's crucial to be prepared.

Negligence on the part of the client, miscommunication, and other variables outside your control can result in injury and possibly legal charges. Taking the following measures can help you reduce risk and damages, while protecting your reputation as a personal trainer at the same time.


Get professional liability insurance.

Also known as malpractice insurance, professional liability insurance shields you from costs arising from "professional negligence", or the failure to properly execute your duties as a personal trainer. That can include injuries the client sustains during a workout that you prescribed, or an illness he or she suffered due to a dietary recommendation you made.

Depending on the policy you choose, your insurance can cover medical bills, hospital stays, attorney's fees, and related damages. All personal trainers are advised to purchase professional liability insurance, particularly independent contractors.

Get general liability insurance.

This type of insurance covers accidents, health problems, and property damages caused by an equipment or the condition of the work premises: slippery floors, malfunctioning treadmills, or moldy bathrooms. If you train clients in your own studio or in an environment that you have personal control over, then you need general liability insurance.

Be certified and continually educate yourself after the certification.

Knowledge is your first defense against professional negligence. Getting certified as a personal trainer by a nationally recognized organization ensures that you have at least the minimum requirements to be a personal trainer.

Challenge yourself to learn continually and stay abreast of new developments in the dynamic field of health and fitness. Once certified, then you are eligible to apply for professional liability insurance. Otherwise, you won't qualify, which leaves you exposed to legal risks.

Get the client's medical history.

Before you even start planning his or her workout, screen the potential client for any health risk factors, including high blood pressure. When a cardiac or metabolic condition like diabetes is present, a doctor's clearance should be obtained.

Let the client fill out a comprehensive medical history form that covers injury profile and lifestyle habits, such as drinking and smoking, and have him or her sign it to confirm its veracity. The document will not only guide you in formulating an appropriate training plan; it will also protect you in the event the client wasn't entirely truthful.

Have the client sign a waiver.

The personal trainer liability waiver or release form states that the client is aware of the risks involved in training. As such you cannot be held accountable for injuries or death resulting from it (except in cases of negligence).

Take the time to go through each point with your client. Instead of using a waiver template as is, have the waiver reviewed and revised by an attorney to ensure that all clauses are applicable to your situation.

Keep a record of each session.

Diligently chart your client's progress, such as weights used, duration on the treadmill, and heart rate achieved. Note your comments and the techniques you've advised. Injuries and other physical problems experienced must be detailed, along with your recommendations.

This record then becomes an invaluable written proof of your professional conduct, in case it comes into question. Naturally, the client's goals – set at the beginning of the program – should also be on file. They should be clearly specified and measurable, whether it's X number of pounds to lose, or Y inches of biceps to grow.

Avoid recommending food supplements.

Unless you are a certified nutritionist, you should never counsel a client to take specific supplements or sell them one. An adverse reaction could result from a medical condition you may not be aware of. When clients request for nutrition tips, keep it general or, better yet, refer them to a dietitian.

These pointers may seem like a lot of extra work, and they really are. But once you put in the effort, not only are you safeguarding yourself against possible litigation, you are also becoming a better personal trainer.