Legal & Risk Management
By Sean Riley, MS, JD
Accidents happen, regardless of how diligent and professional you are. Protect yourself. No matter how long you have been in business or how many certificates you hold, chances are that someday you will be faced with a lawsuit. Liability insurance is a means of protecting yourself in that event. There are two types of liability insurance: general liability and professional liability. Both types are designed to protect you from financial losses due to negligence. General liability insurance protects you from conduct known as ordinary negligence (Connaughton & Eickhoff-Shemek 2003). Ordinary negligence relates to public liability, or “static risk.” For a fitness center, this type of insurance covers the premises and all equipment (McBride 2002). Specific examples of claims covered include losses due to slippery showers, exercise equipment malfunction and worn flooring surfaces. Some health club employees are included in their employers’ general insurance policies, which cover accidents involving maintenance crews, salespeo-
ple and personal fitness trainers who are employees of the club. Trainers in large fitness chains often fall into this category. However, if you are an independent contractor, you may not be covered (McBride 2002). Never assume that you are protected by a general insurance policy in the same way as club employees are. The key to determining your need for general liability insurance is to define your degree of control over your working environment. If you train outdoors or go to clients’ homes, you have no control over the environment and may not need as much liability insurance. If clients use your equipment, however, you could be held responsible for losses due to ordinary negligence relative to the equipment. If you work in your own private studio or out of your home, you are in control of your physical working environment and therefore must obtain general liability insurance. You have a legal duty to provide a safe haven for your clients’ fitness sessions.
must for all personal trainers, especially independent contractors. You can purchase a professional liability policy from a private insurance company. As an IDEA member, you may be able to obtain coverage through Fitness & Wellness Insurance (www.fitnessand wellness.com). Coverage is expressed as dollars per claim or per incident, and your coverage depends on the amount of protection you purchase.
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