Get the Basics...
  • Clients can sue personal trainers for negligence, false advertising, failure to deliver services, and more
  • Personal trainers should carry insurance to protect themselves from personal injury suit judgments
  • Personal trainers must not do anything that leaves them open to a lawsuit
When an unexpected mishap occurs, injury or financial loss often follows. Was negligence involved? If so, thoughts about filing a suit pop into mind.

Why shouldn’t the person at fault for the accident pay the resulting bills?

Sometimes, that person is someone you never thought would cause any troubles: your personal trainer. The person who hoped would improve your wellness ends up causing harm.

Can you really sue your personal trainer?

Under the law, anyone can file a lawsuit against anyone. Whether the case has merit is another matter. A weak case could be tossed out of court with a simple motion to dismiss. Cases with merit won’t go away so easily.

A legitimate case against a personal trainer would be taken as seriously one filed against a drunk driver.

Negligence leading to an injury remains a common reason for litigation against a personal trainer. In basic legal terms, negligence refers to an action or omission that caused harm.

The presence of the elements of civil liability factor into the merits of the case. For specific cases, evaluations of merit are best left to attorneys.

If you trip and fall on your way to the gym, suing your personal trainer won’t likely be an option. If your personal trainer sees a crumpled mat and does nothing to fix it, then he/she may be liable for a slip and fall accident.

A recent lawsuit against a celebrity personal trainer shows a more common scenario: allegations of not properly instructing a client on how to use equipment led to a torn hamstring.

How to File a Suit Against a Personal Trainer

The amount of money at the center of the litigation factors into how to file a lawsuit. Each state has a threshold for small claims court amounts. A number of online resources exist detailing the maximum amount in small claims court.

When the amount is at or below the threshold, you would submit the necessary paperwork and pay the costs for filing a small claims case.

No lawyers are involved. You and the personal trainer present each side to the presiding judge.

For more serious lawsuits, hiring an attorney becomes necessary. The attorney must specialize in the type of case intended to be litigation.

Be it personal injury, fraud, or something else, the attorney must possess the necessary experience to handle such cases. A lawyer who previously handled cases against personal trainers would be a plus.

During the initial meeting, you tell the attorney the circumstances associated with the case. He/she then determines the merits of the case and advises how to go forward.

Words of Advice to Personal Trainers

Like anyone else involved in business and commerce, personal trainers must concern themselves with the possibility of being sued. The physical nature of running people through cardio and weight-training programs does come with risks.

Personal trainers might know a lot about health, fitness, and exercise, but they may possess limited knowledge about civil liability. Increasing knowledge about liability can, hopefully, lead to reducing it.

Injuries cannot always be avoided, but personal trainers should take a few important steps to cut down on injuries.

Client screening questionnaires should be filled out by new trainees prior to the commencement of any exercising. Not knowing the client has underlying conditions won’t likely suffice as a reliable liability defense.

Here are a few serious points personal trainers should ponder:

— Use a Client Screening Form

A client who underwent shoulder surgery six months ago would not be a good candidate for heavy shoulder presses. A client with a heart condition shouldn’t be performing high-intensity interval training on a treadmill.

By asking a client to fill out a screening form, a trainer can determine what health issues may be cause for concern.

In some instances, a trainer may opt to decline to take on a certain client due to worries about a particular medical issue.

— Enroll in a Risk Assessment Course

There are courses available that cover personal training risk assessment and negligence avoidance. Maybe taking one or more of those courses would be a good idea.

Expanded knowledge about risk assessment may lead to avoiding troubling practices.

— Understand Waiver Limitations

Don’t rely solely on liability waiver release forms. Personal trainers guilty of gross negligence won’t find those forms worth very much at all.

A client may understand he/she “trains at his/her own risk”, but a trainer’s negligence doubtfully will be protected by a waiver.

Injuries due to unsafe or unsanitary equipment or poor instruction probably won’t be covered either.

Look into Insurance Policies

Personal trainers should consider investing in an insurance policy from a reputable provider.

Insurance policies written specifically for personal trainers do exist. These policies are designed to provide coverage in a negligence suit.

Buying more than one policy to cover different perils may be wise. Paying a few hundred dollars a year for over $1 million in insurance coverage isn’t a bad deal considering the financial protections.

Reasons to Sue a Personal Trainer

Personal trainers aren’t always sued for personal injury. Sometimes, bad or unprofessional business practices get them in trouble.

Selling a 30 percent discount on 10 private lessons paid in advance may be a good way to drum up business. Only offer deals like this when you can deliver.

If circumstances arise where the sessions must be canceled and no refund was given, the client could take you to small claims court.

Ironically, the person in the wrong may be the client. He may not have shown up for scheduled sessions. The resultant mess may need to go to court to be straightened out, which can be time-consuming for a busy trainer.

Also, beware of making guarantees since they open doors for customer complaints and false advertisement suits.

Even somewhat reasonable guarantees may lead to a trip to court when a difficult client doesn’t see desired results. Bad online reviews and Better Business Bureau complaints could emerge.

A Last Word on Lawsuits Against Personal Trainers

The best way to avoid lawsuits involves simply being careful. Clients should choose trainers with a good reputation for being safe and professional.

Personal trainers must employ common sense and effective training methods, and clients have to use their discretion when choosing a trainer and agreeing to follow any workout plans.