Starting Your Career As a Personal Trainer? Five Ways to Protect Yourself from a Lawsuit

As a personal trainer, you have the opportunity to help people change their lives for the better as they start the journey to greater fitness. Part of your business, however, should be making sure that you do all you can to reduce your personal liability for any injuries that your clients might face. Here's how you can conduct your business while protecting yourself from becoming responsible for any damages in a personal-injury case. 

1. Perform thorough functional fitness tests before beginning any routine.

One of the most common reasons personal trainers and other similar professionals receive the expensive end of the liability stick is that "they should have known better." While you can't foresee every accident, you can help yourself get as much information about new clients as possible through functional fitness tests. This way, you don't inadvertently have your client try an exercise that will leave them injured. For example, if you have a client who is interested in heavy lifting, a functional fitness test will help you see where they are compensating for muscle weakness and help to reveal pre-existing injuries. Muscle compensation leads to bad form, which leads to injury. When you work according to this method, you can work to correct compensation and form before moving to any heavy-lifting activities. Functional fitness tests can help you get a feel for your client's limitations, and this will make you appear less negligent in a court case. 

2. Require a doctor's note for any patients who have any type of risk.

While many trainers do not require a doctor's note, if you work with any clients who have complex medical histories, your should require a physician's clearance. This helps to lift any liability for injury off your shoulders because you have done your due diligence as a professional by referring to a higher medical authority before working with a client. This is especially important for people who have a history of broken bones, sprains, back injury, head trauma, and it is even important for clients who are especially overweight. 

3. Do not give advice outside the scope of your professional credentials.

This is an area that can be tough for personal trainers. If you only have a basic certification in personal training and have no real experience in dietetics or nutrition, it's important for you to hold off on giving diet or nutrition advice. Also, refrain from recommending holistic treatments, supplements, or emotional-healing strategies with your clients. These all lie outside the bounds of your professional ability, but because you are in an influential position, your client could take your word for it. If the person ends up injured or dead because of your specific suggestion, you could be held partially responsible because you were intentionally acting outside of your expertise. A degree in nutrition, a medical background, or another certification is needed to support the advice you give to your clients.

4. Follow gym rules to the letter.

You want to be personable with your clients, but you should never bend the rules of the facility where you train. For example, if weight lifters are always supposed to lift with a spotter, you should always spot your client during a lift, even if the lift is small. Follow rules about eating, drinking, and even listening to music on the floor. If you are negligent in enforcing the rules and injury results because of this, you could be held professionally liable because of the influence you have over the client.

You will need to remain strict with yourself and your clients to ensure the lowest risk of liability as a trainer. For more information about lawsuits and potential damages, contact a personal-injury attorney, such as one from Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP