Liability is a complicated thing. Oftentimes the context of a particular situation influences the outcome of a liability discussion making it hard to craft definitive statements about it.
When it comes to personal trainers and injuries sustained while working out at the gym, liability can fall on either party depending on the specifics of how the injury occurred. The following article will take a look at these factors in an attempt to make the whole situation a bit clearer. This information has been tailored for both personal trainers and the people who hire them. *Please note, this article serves as a guide only and a professional should always be consulted for expert advice on the matter.
What Is Liability?
Liability means that someone has an obligation, debt or responsibility. It’s often used in the context of financial obligations a person has after an event or state of being has been created by their action or lack of action. In the instance of an injury obtained while exercising, liability refers to the person or company that is responsible for the injury and, therefore, should be responsible for any costs associated with the injury.
A Note About Locality
Before diving in, it’s worth mentioning that different states and provinces within a country can interpret laws in different ways. For this reason, it’s always advisable to work with local personal injury attorneys who can let you know about your rights and responsibilities, given how the law is often applied where you live. No amount of online research can replace the need for legal advice from a professional who is aware of the details of your particular situation.
If you are a personal trainer, it’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer before you begin taking on clients. This can help you conduct your services in a way that protects everyone involved, including you, your business and your future clients.
A Personal Trainer’s Liability
A personal trainer can be liable for gym injuries in some cases. If the personal trainer was responsible for you performing a workout in an unsafe manner, they could be deemed responsible for injuries sustained.
If, for instance, a personal trainer gave you more weight than you could safely manage, didn’t pay enough attention to your form to correct you from making a dangerous mistake or pushed you to go harder than your body could handle, they could be responsible for your injury. In situations like these ones, there are several things you must be able to prove in order to prove liability:
- Your trainer was responsible for keeping you safe throughout your workout
- Your trainer didn’t provide proper care and/or was negligent in their attention
- You were injured significantly
Standard Exercise Injuries
It’s important to understand that minor injuries are considered part of the risk you take when you decide to do certain forms of exercise. There are strategies that can help mitigate this risk, but a certain percentage of risk will always remain. Some injuries that might be considered minor and normal include strains and sprains.
Pulled muscles, soreness or discomfort after working out are considered par for the course by most fitness professionals; personal trainers are not often, therefore, considered responsible for these kinds of injuries. By the very nature of deciding to work out, you have opened yourself up to a degree of physical discomfort. Significant injuries are those that result in loss of training time.
Proof Of Significant Injury
Proving an injury is significant isn’t always as straightforward as you might think it is. For this reason, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve been injured. The doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan can be used as evidence in legal proceedings if necessary.
Beyond this, it’s vital that you follow the treatment plan you’re given. Not following the plan could be interpreted as you not being as injured as you claim you are, or you attempting to sustain your injury for a longer period of time in order to reap financial benefits.
If, for some reason, you’re unhappy with the diagnosis or treatment plan you’ve been offered, seek out a second or third opinion. You should also be in the habit of asking vital questions to your doctor to ensure you’re getting the right suggestions for you. Outside of the legal importance of this note, it’s also possible that prompt medical intervention and strict adherence to a treatment plan can help you recover more fully or faster than being lax in this regard.
Not A Personal Trainer’s Liability
In contrast to the examples mentioned above, there are instances wherein a personal trainer isn’t considered liable for an injury. These are situations in which a trainer did all they could to help you prevent and injury, and the injury still occurred. For instance, if a trainer consistently tells you to do your exercise with a certain form and you ignore this advice and get injured, they aren’t responsible.
Likewise, if they caution you against something like taking on more weight or pushing for longer, and you’re injured, this isn’t their responsibility either.
How Personal Trainers Can Protect Themselves
If you’re a personal trainer looking to protect yourself, given the above information, there are a few key steps you can take.
- The first is to secure certification. While personal training isn’t a heavily regulated industry in most states, there are a lot of certifications that you can seek out that help teach you about safety precautions.
- Second, you’re going to want to secure yourself some liability insurance. This protects you from financial repercussions in the event that one of your clients is injured and brings a claim against you. You probably want both professional liability insurance and general liability insurance. It’s a good idea to speak to your insurance provider in detail about your interests and concerns when it comes to liability.
- Third, you’re going to want to instate a health and fitness screening into your client onboarding process. This needs to involve assessing a client’s level of fitness and any physical limitations they may have. A questionnaire covering preexisting health conditions and medication should be part of this step. This information will allow you to make better recommendations for your particular client.
The above information should give you an idea of when and why a personal trainer could be considered liable for an injury sustained while exercising under their direction. Again, every case is different, and this means for the most accurate information regarding your situation, you should speak to an attorney.