Being a personal trainer involves more than just being up-to-date on all the latest exercise techniques. It's also a business that requires you to handle some financial and legal matters. To protect yourself from potential lawsuits, you'll need to use waivers and some other legal forms.
We know all this can sound intimidating, but don't worry! Our helpful guide will give you all the tips you need for creating waivers and handling some of the legal aspects of being a personal trainer.
If you are planning on taking money from people in exchange for training, there are several legal documents you should have. First of all, you will need liability waivers and certification of professional liability insurance. This helps protect you in case a client gets injured and decides to sue.
Next, it's a good idea to have a contract for new clients. This lays out things like session cancellation fees, refunds, and other details about how your rules and payment plans work. If you are advertising that you have training or certifications from any organizations, you'll need legal proof to back up those claims.
And finally, it's a good idea to have clients sign consent and disclaimer forms. Consent forms detail exactly what sorts of tests, assessments, and training your clients are willing to participate in, while disclaimers cover you in case the clients don't get the results they want.
A training waiver is a type of form that absolves you of liability. Liability waiver forms are often used when a person signs up for any potentially risky activity. The form is an official way for the client to acknowledge there's some potential for harm and agree they will not hold you responsible for any injury they incur.
Essentially, by signing this type of form, a client is saying they won't sue you if they hurt themselves while following your training plan. The waiver is a preventive measure that can protect you from costly and time-consuming personal injury lawsuits. Waivers are frequently used to protect against lawsuits for the following types of situations:
A client injured their wrist last year but never told you about it. You tell them to perform a series of push-ups, and they strain their wrist again.
Your client is going on a run that you suggested. They trip and fall, breaking their arm.
While performing dumbbell raises, your client decides to try a new grip you showed them. Their unfamiliarity with the grip causes them to drop the weight on their toes.
Your client is sore after a day in the gym. This soreness causes them to call out sick from work, losing a day of pay.
During a squat, your client forgets to keep their knees in the proper position that you advised them to use. This causes them to injure their leg.
A waiver is a great way of avoiding minor lawsuits involving injuries that happen during the course of training. However, a personal trainer liability waiver isn't a magic document that gets you out of all lawsuits forever. Waivers just protect you from liability due to the inherent risk of training. They won't protect you from lawsuits claiming gross negligence.
As a trainer, you have the responsibility to be reasonably careful and practice commonsense safety measures. Your waiver won't protect you if your clients get injured because you failed to follow basic safety procedures. In cases of major negligence, the court may decide that your waiver doesn't cover the incident, so the lawsuit can proceed. Some examples of injuries not covered by a waiver include:
You fail to give first aid after an injury, causing the injury to worsen.
Your certifications expire, but you keep teaching without renewing them.
Your lack of training then causes an accident.
You know equipment is damaged, but you let a client use it anyway.
You advise your client to take risky supplements even though you are not a nutritionist or medical expert.
You're aware the client has a pre-existing health problem, but you encourage them to keep training in a way that acts against their medical needs.
There are waiver form templates you can use to draft a DIY waiver. This can be used to create a perfectly valid waiver document. However, while it can give you a little coverage and protection, this sort of waiver isn't foolproof. If something goes wrong during a training session, the client might be able to argue that your waiver was unclear, confusing, vague, or even illegal.
Therefore, it's a good idea to get help from a legal professional. They can assist you with drafting a document that covers all situations and adheres to all local and federal regulations. You don't necessarily need a lawyer to write the waiver itself, though that can be helpful. At a minimum, you need a lawyer to look over your waiver and alert you to any potential issues with it.
Unlike some other legal documents, a liability waiver usually doesn't require notarization. In most cases, all the document needs to be validated is your and your client's signatures. However, keep in mind that rules do vary from state to state. In some regions, you might need to get your waiver notarized. This is part of the reason you should consult a lawyer when creating waivers. A lawyer can keep you updated on all local regulations about finalizing legal documents.
Notarizing can be a good idea even if you don't live in an area where it's a legal requirement. When you notarize a document, it just means you and your client both sign the document in the presence of a licensed notary. The notary confirms both your identities and witnesses the signature. In case any arguments occur later on, the notary can appear in court and testify that all related parties did indeed sign the liability waiver.
So, what is in a liability waiver? Liability and release forms should always be customized to fit your unique situation. However, there are a few things you should always include in any liability waiver:
Your waiver must be clearly written in a legible font.
The waiver should include both your name and the name of the client.
The waiver should have a provision stating that the client agrees to participate in exercise at their own risk.
You need to specifically inform the client that they are signing away their right to make any and all future claims against you.
The waiver must have an exclusion stating you retain liability for injuries caused by your own negligence.
The waiver should state that clients must consult with a doctor before following any nutritional or supplemental recommendations you make.
The waiver must be signed and dated by the client.
You must make it clear that signing the waiver and participating in the exercise is voluntary.
Many personal trainers make the mistake of skipping waivers because they have liability insurance. However, it's important to keep in mind that personal trainer liability insurance differs from a general liability waiver.
Your insurance is meant to protect you from liability claims not related to your training. It can include both professional liability insurance and insurance for your studio or fitness center. This type of insurance is just there to help out if a client trips on your studio threshold or gets their foot crushed under a collapsing weight bench. Your liability insurance company usually trusts you to handle your training sessions responsibly.
A liability waiver covers all the other little things that could go wrong during training but aren't covered by your professional liability insurance. It helps with things like a client who twists their ankle while running or a client who lifts a weight incorrectly and injures a shoulder. The waiver makes sure you won't get sued just because a client chose to participate in an inherently risky physical activity.
Ultimately, a personal trainer liability waiver is a great way to further protect yourself and your business. If you're looking for more ways to safeguard yourself against financial and legal problems, CoverWallet is here to help. Talk to our experts to learn more about the types of insurance needed in the fitness industry and why, and take advantage of a free quote.