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What is Professional Liability Insurance for Personal Trainers?

Decades ago the fitness industry took the US by storm and continues to grow rapidly. In fact, according to statista.com, the industry revenue in the US alone is $25.8 billion with an annual growth rate of about 5%. Chains such as 24-Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness and others are opening new locations constantly.

Personal trainers are an integral part of the industry, and the demand for them is growing. The stabilizing economy makes consumers more confident in spending more of their income and are enticed to invest in a solid, long-term investment, their health and fitness.

As a personal fitness trainer, you work with a multitude of people every day, giving them nutritional advice, encouraging them to reach their fitness goals and pushing them out of their comfort zone to get results. That’s why clients come to you – to get challenged! However, it can also be your downfall.

Giving professional advice concerning one’s health and fitness does pose risks. The reality is you are human and can make a mistake, but you might also not be aware of some circumstances that make that a particular client susceptible to injury.

Below are some of the main exposures that you have as a personal trainer:

– nutritional advice
– failure to assess client’s limitations and pushing too hard causing injury
– unfamiliarity with fitness equipment and failure to correct form leading to injury
– creating training plans that are not suitable for the client due to age, medical condition or other factors

This was the case for a 62-year-old plaintiff who sued her personal trainer after sustaining severe injuries during an exercise routine. The trainer and the client were performing exercises on Bosu Ball, which is an inflatable ball attached to a platform. The trainer has directed his client to stand on the platform, the inflatable ball part on the ground. As a result, the defendant lost balance, was catapulted into the air and fell on her right side sustaining hip and wrist fractures.1

The court awarded a $750,000 judgment to the plaintiff.

You might be asking – but what about the liability waiver every client sign? Wouldn’t it protect the personal trainer?

Yes and no. Every state has different laws regarding waivers. If it comes to trial, a judge could invalidate the waiver which is precisely what happened in the example above.

When it comes to your livelihood and career, you should know for sure that you are protected. Unlike waivers, a Professional Liability policy provides such assurance. This insurance product was designed specifically to cover the risks that come with giving out professional advice or providing a service. Here at BizInsure we firmly believe that this is an essential insurance product for fitness professionals.

Adding another monthly expense may seem excessive, However, just like with home or auto insurance, it’s a worthwhile investment to safeguard what you have worked so hard to build.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the coverages that this policy provides, what you should be looking out for and of course the cost of such a policy.

What is Professional Liability Insurance?

Professional liability insurance, or as we like to call it a personal trainer insurance coverage, affords coverage to those who provide their professional services or advice to clients. Unlike General Liability insurance that covers more broad liability such as slip and fall claims, false advertising etc., Professional Liability insurance zeroes in on professional advice has gone wrong.

What is the difference between General Liability and Professional Liability insurance?

Differentiating between General Liability and Professional Liability insurance coverages is essential. It’s a common misconception that if you have a General Liability policy than you are covered for any professional errors as well. As we mentioned at the earlier, a General Liability policy specifically excludes any advice you give in a professional capacity. So, if you were mopping the floor, forgot to put up a “wet floor” sign and a customer fell and sprained their ankle – a General Liability policy would take care of that loss, since you were not acting in your professional capacity as a personal trainer. However, if your client was following an exercise plan you created for them and sprained their ankle because the weights were too heavy – a Professional Liability policy would be needed.

A Professional Liability policy will cover not only the settlement or judgment awarded in a trial but also the cost to defend the lawsuit. Even if you are not found to be negligent, and you win the lawsuit, you will still need someone to fight for you in court. The cost of hiring a lawyer alone can run into the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Claims-made vs. occurrence policies:

It is essential to be aware of how the Professional Liability policies are written to avoid finding yourself with no coverage. Virtually all Professional Liability policies are written on a claims-made basis. This is something which we will explore in greater detail below.

All your most common policies such as auto, home, and other commercial policies are written on an occurrence basis. First, let’s assume that we are discussing a claim that would be covered under the coverage specifications of the policy.

If the policy is written on an occurrence basis, this means that the policy covers claims that arise out of damage or injury that took place during the policy period. Occurrence basis refers to the time the loss occurred.

In a claims-made policy, the claim has to be made to the insurance company as soon as possible and within the current policy period. Another important aspect to a claims-made policy is a retroactive date. If a claim occurs before a retroactive date, it will not be covered, no matter when it was reported to the insurance carrier.
When you first take out the policy, the retroactive date is the same as the effective date of your policy and doesn’t change from then on. It’s important to not let your policy cancel because then you lose your retroactive date and leave yourself exposed.

Here is an example:
Let’s assume your policy was in effect from 1/1/2015 – 1/1/2016.
A claim made policy: a claim will be covered if you brought it to your carrier’s attention between the dates of the policy (1/1/15-16) and the loss happened during the policy period.

Additional Claim Examples

As you can see from the below examples, lawsuits are costly.

Family of Anne Marie Capati v. Crunch Fitness2
Anne Marie Capati was a member of Crunch Fitness. She hired one of their personal trainers who had instructed Ms. Capati to take nutritional supplements to enhance her workout results. The problem was that Ms. Capati was on a doctor prescribed medication. This medication interacted with the supplements which caused her death. The family sued both the trainer and the fitness club. Ultimately, the case went to trial, and the jury has awarded $1.4M to the family.

Baldi-Perry v. Kiafas and 360 Fitness Center, Inc.3
A woman in NY hired a personal trainer through her fitness center, to recover after surgery. According to the court files, she has provided her trainer with all pertinent medical and surgery information. Still, the trainer pushed her hard to perform a few strenuous exercises that resulted in exhaustion and injuries. According to her doctors, due to the nature of the exercises, she sustained chronic injuries. Jury trial awarded a judgment around $1M to the plaintiff.

Evans v. Fitness & Sports Club4
This particular lawsuit was dismissed however it still resulted in a lengthy legal process. A trainer, hired by an older client, had instructed her to perform a set of “suicide run” exercises, where you sprint towards a weight, touch it and run backward. The client fell and injured her wrists and sued the trainer for negligence.

What is not covered?

Now that we’ve talked about what covered by a Professional Liability policy, let’s go over what scenarios are not covered.

– 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). However, intentional and illegal acts are always excluded on any insurance policy.

How much does professional liability insurance for a personal trainer cost?

If you work for a fitness center, they likely have a Professional Liability policy to cover themselves and their trainers. It’s important to verify what is the limit up to which you are covered.

If you train independently, then you will have to purchase your own insurance policy. Typically, the policy rate depends on the location of your business, how many clients you take on, as well as your deductible.

Personal trainer liability insurance cost typically averages around $400 a month.

As you can see, while working as a personal trainer can be very rewarding, this profession also comes with a very real set of risks.
Whether it’s a nuisance lawsuit or you have truly been negligent your financial stability depends on how prepared you are to fight this lawsuit.

Professional Liability insurance is an essential tool in your preparedness toolbox. BizInsure can provide you with instant quotes as well as human support on the other side of the screen (or the phone!). Click here to complete a short online form to receive your quotes instantly.

1Maya Law, (2015). Personal Injury Suit Settles for $750k. [online] Available at: http://www.mayalaw.com/2015/09/14/personal-injury-suit-settles-for-705k/.
2Leagle, (2002). Capati v. Crunch Fitness International Inc. [online] Available at: https://www.leagle.com/decision/2002476295ad2d1811360 [Accessed 20.07.2018].
3The Buffalo News, (2015). Buffalo woman awarded $980,000 in fitness center lawsuit. [online] Available at: https://buffalonews.com/2015/04/08/buffalo-woman-awarded-980000-in-fitness-center-lawsuit/ [Accessed 20.07.2018]
4Dominic, A (2016). Liability waivers help LA Fitness win injury lawsuit. [online] Club Industry. Available at: https://www.clubindustry.com/la-fitness/liability-waivers-help-la-fitness-win-injury-lawsuit [Accessed 20.07.2018].

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