What are the Career Risks for Fitness Professionals
Q. How can fitness professionals avoid being sued?
A. It’s simple: perform your job perfectly in every moment to achieve the desired outcome each and every time.
In a perfect world, maybe that would be the solution. The reality is that things are not this simple. There is no perfect solution to prevent every misstep that could lead to your being sued.
Of course it helps to adhere to best practices and risk management techniques while you provide fitness training. These strategies can be a safeguard for preventing accidents and injury, while you strive for optimal results for your clients. However, no matter how proven those strategies are, you’re still vulnerable to unforeseen risks.
Countless malpractice claims are made against fitness professionals every year. Some claims are brought against trainers for legitimate performance failures. Other claims have little merit, brought by displeased clients for not achieving a desired outcome, but are not actually the result of substandard fitness training or conduct.
It’s important to understand that for a malpractice claim to be justifiable, the acts as performed (whether poorly or not at all) must be the direct cause of an injury to a client, and proven in a court of law.
Even with the most solid defense and confident counsel backing you, getting to the point of arbitration of a claim doesn’t happen quickly. And no matter the outcome of the claim, being involved in a claim against your work can have significant effects on your finances, reputation and even your psyche.
The costs of defending a malpractice claim can vary depending on the scope of the claim. But even if a trainer isn’t found at fault and owes no payment to the claimant, there are still expenses associated with defending a claim. The costs of hiring a reputable defense team, expert witnesses and researchers can be substantial, sometimes reaching the tens of thousands of dollars. If you’re found guilty and owe a settlement to the claimant, the overall cost of the ordeal can easily double or even triple. This can be devastating to your business and personal finances.
The invaluable resource of time is another cost of managing a malpractice claim. No matter how firmly you insist you are innocent of any wrongdoing, it still takes hours to build a solid defense to support you in court. Time spent on preparation, deposition and trial all adds up to hours away from the gym or studio, not training other clients and not earning additional income.
Effect on Reputation
Financial implications are a definite concern, but you can recover from them over time. Your reputation is perhaps even more vulnerable if you are sued—especially if your training has allegedly caused serious injury to a client.
A malpractice claim against you can signify that you are less competent than your peers. If this allegation is made, and moreover, if it can be proven, there’s a real risk that your reputation will take a hit. A blow to your reputation can be quite damaging and difficult to counter. When your public reputation takes a hit, you run the real risk of losing clients and being unable to gain new ones, at least for a time.
An allegation against your performance as a personal trainer can be very unsettling. On one hand, you may feel offended or even angry if you believe you are innocent. On the other, the knowledge that your training just might be to blame for a client injury can be very distressing. The stress of a claim and an impending lawsuit can have a negative effect on the level of performance you deliver to your other clients, and can even affect how you manage your business. Whether a claim against you is an open-and-shut case or drags on for months, the stress can really affect your psyche.
Proper risk management is your best defense when providing hands-on services like fitness training. These best practices will help you stay on track. Following proper procedures with every client, no matter how confident the client is, and forming honest and caring relationships with them are two very effective ways to help reduce the chances of being sued for malpractice. It’s also a sound business practice to purchase a Professional Liability (Malpractice) Insurance policy to help offset the financial risks if you are ever sued. Learn more about the Professional Liability Insurance offered by Lockton Fitness.
Thank you so much for your prompt response. Might I add, Veronica was a delight to work with and her professionalism and attention to detail made this an overall pleasurable experience.