The following is a guest post by Ricky Aponte.
As the personal training industry has evolved during the last ten years, we as fitness professionals have the responsibility to educate ourselves, so the number and seriousness of lawsuits don’t expand to an equal degree. Therefore, fitness proffessionals must understand how to protect themselves legally.
While every state has their own laws and regulations, and in the last couple years many states have considered legislation to license personal trainers, to this date there are no regulations or requirements to become a personal trainer. Therefore, in order to avoid being at greater risk of potential liability, I offer 4 basic, but importnat things fitness pros can do to protect themselves in personal training legal issues:
1. Acquire a National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) Accredited Certification.
Only the NCCA Accredited Certifications are legally defensible. This means that this certification offers proof that the personal trainer is qualified to perform the job of a personal trainer. It is important to know that having passing a certification establishes that the individual is minimally competent to work unsupervised in a given field or profession. Certification does not mean that an individual knows everything required to be considered an expert in a given field, but it lets the client know the trainer is competent enough to provide the service they are looking for.
Remember, personal trainers are at greater risk of potential liability and a credible certification helps the trainer in its legal defense. For educational purposes, I’ve provided a list of organizations accredited by the NCCA in Fitness and Wellness: Academy of Applied Personal Training Education, American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, National Council on Strength and Fitness, National Exercise Trainers Association, National Federation of Professional Trainers, National Strength and Conditioning Association, Pilates Method Alliance and The Cooper Institute.
If you want to check out this information you can go online to www.credentialingexcellence.org.
2. Obtain professional liability insurance.
Many personal trainers wonder why they would even need professional liability insurance. It’s important because it addresses issues of liability protection and associated risks. Not only does professional liability protection help personal trainers in the event of a settlement or judgment for damages, it will also help with the defense to fight against such actions, leaving little to no out of pocket cost for legal and court fees.
In other words, getting professional liability insurance might be the difference between staying in business and going bankrupt.
3. Have the client sign a release of liability or waiver of liability.
For a personal trainer, it cannot be emphasized enough how important these forms are. When a client requests the service of a personal trainer, he or she has that option, so the client should be made aware of all possible dangers that could occur when starting an exercise program. It is important for the personal trainer to know that the release of liability waiver has been upheld in many state courts across the country. But in order to be valid in a court of law it must meet certain requirements that the courts of the various states have established. We strongly recommend that the personal trainer seek legal advice from an attorney in their state when writing a release of liability waiver.
Also, the personal trainer should remember that laws vary from state to state, and in some states, for example New York, there are laws that prohibit the use of a release of liability waiver.
4. Have your client fill a medical history form.
Generally, many personal trainers don’t require their clients to fill out a medical history form. Each personal trainer should protect themselves from liability by clients who have pre-existing injuries and try to blame their personal trainer or by clients who utilize exercise advice and fail to follow through properly.
Also, without knowledge of a client medical history, such as being aware of a past illness, medications, surgeries, injuries and other medical complaints, a personal trainer isn’t in the best position to prescribe safely prescribe exercises. If the personal trainer fails to inquire this information, the personal trainer can be found negligent if a client becomes injured as a consequence.
The personal training industry is large, complex and filled with both the good and the bad. It is the personal trainer’s responsibility to protect oneself and one’s business. This is achieved by understanding the legal aspects involved in the creation and operation of a personal training business. The more the fitness professional understands about the legal aspects of their industry, the better they’ll be able to reduce the risk of being involved in a lawsuit.
Finally, this is just an over-view of the articles I’ll be writing about in regards to legal issues in the personal training profession. For more in depth legal issues involving personal training that you would like me to address in the future, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].