The Liabilities of Running a Personal Training Business
How liable are you if one of your client gets injured during a session with you?
We live in a world where people are more litigious than ever, so liability issues have never been so big for business owners.
There are a number of issues that contribute to your defence, including your level of training and certification for the activity in question; the quality of your pre-program testing; if the client signed an informed consent form, a release, and a form on the assumption of risk; and whether the advice and instructions you gave fit with the physical condition and circumstances of the client.
Keeping your clients informed on the lengths they should push themselves to can also influence the amount of liability insurance you need. After you receive your certification, you want to work with the certification company and get their advice on the amount of liability insurance you need to get.
It’s also a good idea to educate your clients about the difference between a minor irritation and would could be a big signal something is wrong. Sometimes a client feels tightness but they won’t tell you about it because they want to keep pushing themselves and impress you. They want to push themselves for you. This leaves you making decisions without really knowing what condition they are in. If you knew that they were feeling tightness, you would change what they were doing. This is one of the most common ways for injuries to occur. It’s great that your clients want to push themselves for you, but they should be aware of the differences between something small and something concerning.
Liability Waivers and Release Forms
While you should keep all the paperwork that you can, there are certain documents that are essential and must be kept in a safe place. You need to have an informed consent, a release, and an assumption of risk form on file; all of which have been signed by the client. You also need a physician release form and a fitness assessment, on top of anything else.
Informed Consent, Release and Assumption of Risk
This is a form that shows the client agrees to participate in a testing exercise and the training program developed from the results, and it also includes release and assumption of risk. It’s important you have clear written consent from a client before putting them through anything. You should have an attorney look over the form, and any other client form, and verify the following:
The client is over 18 years old and legally able to give consent. If they are under 18, then you need to have their parent or guardian sign the form on their behalf.
A statement showing that the client has a full understanding of the potential risks and benefits of the procedure/program, and a release.
A statement that the client gave their consent freely and voluntarily, and was not pressured or lied to in order to get their consent.
You should have a discussion with the client about the benefits and risks of the procedure or program before having them sign the consent form. This gives them the chance to ask some questions. Ensure you give proper and satisfying answers to their queries. You might need to add some extra notes to the form around issues that should be brought up later. Keep the original copy of the form for your records, but provide the client with a copied version for themselves.
It’s a good idea to make your client feel like they are the one in charge, and encourage them to make choices about what they want out of the training and where they want to go. They should feel comfortable telling you that they don’t feel right doing something. Let them know about some of your ideas, and tell them that you can think of a different way to get where the client wants to be if one of your ideas doesn’t work.
If you have a client that you deem to be high risk, then it’s vital that you get medical clearance. You should also consider getting medical clearance for moderate risk clients. Risk levels can be determined by looking at the health history, medical screening, and exercise history of a client. If you believe that a client needs a physician’s clearance, then you should request they get it – and have the clearance periodically updated and reviewed.
Clients should never enter an exercise program without being assessed to make sure they can handle it without getting hurt. It would be a major mistake for a personal trainer to get their client exercising without assessing their fitness and screening their health first.
By using the suggested forms to screen your clients, you can determine if they are healthy enough to go through the exercise program. It also allows you to determine how fit they currently are and their goals, which makes it easier to create the right exercise program. You should also perform the initial assessment on a regular basis as a way to monitor clients, assess their progress, and keep them motivated.
You need to keep a range of information about individual clients on top of the other documents that we’ve mentioned. There should be detailed records of all the actions, observations, discussions, and program prescription clients have. Don’t forget to keep records of any special instructions clients receive, along with any warnings or limitations you have expressed, their progress notes, details of the instructions given to them (along with any records of repeated instructions) about techniques, how to use equipment, and any other concerns or information on injuries; including any first aid the client received after getting injured.