There is hardly a person in the US that has never stepped foot in a fitness club. The fitness industry has always been a big deal, but it has grown exponentially in recent years. According to statista.com, 54% of all respondents to the survey go to a gym at least a few times a week, demonstrating the demand for health and fitness facilities is at all-time high. This is evidenced by the constant opening of new locations of chain fitness gyms and boutique health clubs.
Investing in their health and fitness is clearly a high priority for many Americans which is why a career as a personal trainer is becoming more and more sought after.
A personal trainer career requires entrepreneurial spirit, physical fitness and the desire to help people become the best, healthiest and fittest version of themselves
As any customer service profession requires (and let’s admit it, this job is as much about customer service as it is about fitness), you work with many customers in a day. Amongst other activities, you instruct your clients on proper form during exercises and create rigid routines for them to follow.
Unfortunately, mistakes happen. And in this business, a mistake can lead to devastating consequences such as chronic conditions, injuries and sometimes even death.
A customer getting hurt is a nightmare scenario for every personal trainer. Sometimes this is due to an error made by the trainer. Sometimes, it is partially the fault of the client who failed to disclose medical circumstances that make them particularly susceptible to injury.
In any case, the result is often the same – you, the personal trainer, getting sued for causing or contributing to your client’s injuries.
Let’s briefly review some of your main exposures as a personal trainer:
– Failure to correct form during exercise leading to injury
– Designing an exercise routine that is too strenuous for the customer leading to injuries
– Fitness equipment malfunctioning injuring the client
Any of these instances can cause a costly lawsuit against you, the personal trainer. So how do you protect yourself?
There is an insurance product designed just for that. It protects you from the financial consequences of a lawsuit. In the section below, we explain in detail what is a professional liability policy.
Professional liability personal trainer insurance
What is professional liability personal trainer’s insurance?
As the name implies, personal trainer professional liability insurance is designed to cover your actions and advice given out in your professional capacity.
This policy can provide legal coverage in the event of a claim. The policy will cover the cost to defend your case whether or not you are found guilty.
It is also important to note that the policy will cover you up to a specified limit, for example, $1,000,000.
Difference between general liability and professional liability insurance
Many people think that a general liability insurance policy also covers them for any kind of professional incidents. This is not the case.
A general liability insurance policy focuses on claims such as a slip and fall. it also covers any negligent act that causes bodily injury or property damage to another person that can be caused by anyone not just the professional in question.
A General Liability policy will exclude any professional activity and that exposure is picked up and covered by the errors and omissions insurance (which is another name for professional liability policy).
Why a professional liability policy through the gym might not be a good idea
If you are working for a fitness club, you might be thinking – wouldn’t the gym’s policy cover me since I work for them? There is a chance that their policy might fully cover you, but it warrants a serious discussion with your employer. Below are a few issues we often find as it relates to the gym’s master professional liability policy.
– Training clients outside of the club – The master policy of the gym you work for will always exclude any activity done, not on behalf of the gym or not authorized by the gym. That means that if you pick up a client and train them in your spare time, you are not covered if that client ever brings a lawsuit against you. Since getting as many clients as you can is your primary goal, especially if you are just starting out, it’s important to be prepared. If there is any chance that you will agree to train anyone not on behalf of the gym, you will likely need your own policy.
– Individual coverage – The professional insurance policy that the gym has in place will likely not provide coverage for all of the personal trainers individually. What that means, is if your customer sues you, their lawyer is likely to advise them to not only name the gym as a defendant but also name you personally as a co-defendant.
If the gym’s policy only covers the business itself, then you will be responsible for the cost of the attorney, legal fees and a share of the settlement. This can get very expensive very quickly. Double check with your employer to understand who exactly the insurance covers and if there are doubts, a separate policy might be in order.
When discussing insurance with your employer, it’s important to mention these two issues.
Adding another expense in a form of yet another insurance policy may seem daunting, yet it could save you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
If you have any questions regarding what coverages you may or may not need, we are happy to chat. Contact us here to discuss your business and its unique insurance needs.
Professional liability policy is written on what is known in the industry as a “claims made policy”.
It’s important to understand how this type of policy works to avoid finding yourself with no coverage.
In a traditional policy like your auto or your home policy, the most important part of the claim is for it to happen while the policy is in force.
In a claims-made policy, what matters the most is when the claim was made to the insurance company. For example, if you cancel your policy and then a former customer sues for something that happened while the policy was still active – you will have no coverage. Why? Because when you report it to the company, the insurance policy was already canceled. This is why it is important to keep your policy active. Once you retire or decide you are done with your personal training business, you can purchase a special coverage to cover you in that case.
As you can see from below example, lawsuits can be quite costly.
Chetan Vaid v. Equinox Fitness and Joseph Dominguez
Chetan Vaid, a former member of Equinox Gym, was awarded a judgment of over $10M in a personal trainer negligence case. Mr. Vaid suffered a stroke after following his trainer’s rigorous exercise routine. While performing the exercises Mr. Vaid experienced blurry vision and felt dizzy. The Personal trainer had pushed him to continue exercising at the same pace after a short water break. Later that night, Mr. Vaid went to the emergency room after his symptoms persisted and a CT scan discovered a that he suffered a carotid artery dissection, which caused a stroke. The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Dominguez’s carelessness and pushing his client to complete the exercises despite distinctly alarming symptoms, caused the stroke.
What is not covered?
There isn’t a blanket policy that covers everything. Some situations such as illegal acts are included under any insurance policy, some exposures will be excluded under the professional liability policy but covered under a different policy. This is designed so the insured cannot double dip into coverage by collecting multiple times for the same claim.
Below are the scenarios that are not covered under a professional liability policy:
– Intentional wrongdoing
– Illegal act
– General liabilities
– Employee injuries
– Employment disputes.
– False advertising
– Property damage
Most of these exposures can be covered through other insurance policies such as Workers Compensation (employee injuries); Employment Practices Liability (employment disputes); General Liability (false advertising).
How much does personal trainer liability insurance cost?
The cost of the professional liability policy depends on a few factors. These factors include your age, location, experience and any advance certifications. Other factors that may affect the premium are the type of personal training that you do, policy limits and any deductibles.
A standard liability limit on the professional liability policy is $1,000,000. However, you can bump it up to $2,000,000. Higher limits of liability make sense if you have a lot of clients or provide services such as medical exercise coaching or working with special needs clients (pregnancy, special health conditions, post-stroke rehab etc). In these cases, your risk is higher.
Higher limits will mean a higher premium although it will often not make a dramatic difference.
Personal trainer liability insurance cost typically starts from $400 a month.
A career as a personal trainer can be very rewarding both psychologically (who doesn’t love helping others!) and financially.
However, working with multiple customers a day on something as sensitive as their health is inherently risky.
Whether you are found guilty or not, a lawsuit forces you to put your career on hold and drains you mentally and financially. Being prepared to fight the lawsuit and defend your case is essential to protecting your livelihood.
A professional liability policy is a key strategy to help you fight nuisance lawsuits and help offset the financial fallout if you did make a mistake.
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 Statista. Statistics & Facts on Health & Fitness Industry [online] Available at: https://www.statista.com/topics/1141/health-and-fitness-clubs/ [Accessed 05 08. 2018r]
 Stromgren, E (2016). Connecticut Jury Finds Equinox, Personal Trainer Negligent in $10.875 Million Injury Case. [online] Club Industry. Available at: https://www.clubindustry.com/equinox/connecticut-jury-finds-equinox-personal-trainer-negligent-10875-million-injury-case [Accessed 05.08.2018].