Insurance is an important and effective means by which fitness professionals can protect themselves. They need to carry the right coverage, however, for it to be effective. As fitness professionals, the most important coverage for fitness professionals is their Professional Liability Insurance. There are also very good reasons to carry Personal & Advertising, Cyber Liability, Abuse & Molestation, Product Liability and even Premises liability coverage as a professionals.
- To understand the types of insurance coverage that a fitness professionals needs to carry to protect themselves.
- To understand the limits of liability coverage that are most common.
- To understand the difference in occurrence based coverage and claims made coverage.
Professional Liability is the Most Critical Insurance Coverage for Fitness Professionals
Professional liability insurance protects a fitness professional for claims that might be presented based on the services that they provide. These services include both their physical actions in training their clients, as well as, their verbal instructions, recommendations and advice. A client can be injured as result of an exercise that they participate in under the supervision of their personal trainer or an activity including diet changes that their trainer recommended. A client might also be injured because their personal trainer failed to instruct them in the proper use of a piece of equipment that they used with the trainer present or on their own. Similarly, a client could be injured if their fitness professional failed to advise them of the risk involved in certain exercises or activities and the precautions necessary for their safety.
In a nut shell, a fitness professional has professional liability exposure for everything they say and do or fail to say and do with a client. This is why selecting the right professional liability coverage is most critical for a fitness professional.
Occurrence Based Professional Liability Offers the Best Coverage for Most Fitness Professionals
An Occurrence based liability insurance policy protects the fitness professional from any covered incident that “occurs” during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is filed. An occurrence based policy will respond to claims that are reported even after the policy has been cancelled or non-renewed, as long as the incident occurred during the period in which the coverage was in force. Claims-made policies provide coverage for claims only when BOTH the alleged incident AND the resulting claim filing happen during the period the policy is in force. Coverage is provided as long as the insured maintains continuous, uninterrupted coverage. A claims-made policy will cover claims after the coverage period only if the insured purchases extended reporting or “tail” coverage, which can become expensive.
If a fitenss professional decides to change their career and go into facility management or another field entirely, they usually do not renew their Personal Trainer Professional Liability policy. Under Occurrence based coverage, they would still have protection if a claim is filed months or years later. Under claims made based coverage, there would be no protection unless the trainer knew to purchase tail coverage that could be twice the annual premium they paid previously. Two additional factors make Occurrence based coverage the best coverage for personal trainers. First, many liability claims are filed long after the incident occurs both because of the billing cycles for health care providers and health insurance carriers and the time that claimants have in most jurisdictions to file law suits. Second, the vast majority of fitness professional do not decide to purchase tail coverage when they decide to leave training.
Fitness Professionals Need Coverage for Nutritional Counseling
Additionally, it is important for fitness professionals to select professional liability coverage that does not exclude Nutritional Counseling since most engage in discussions of diet and nutrition with their personal training clients even if they do not conduct formal counseling sessions. Fit pros want their clients to see results and meet their fitness goals, so almost all fitness professionals talk about eating habits at some point in their client relationships. For example, since clients hear any nutritional discussions as professional advice from their trainer, this is an exposure for personal trainers. A client can claim that they were injured by nutritional advice. Pre-existing health conditions or changes in their clients’ health over time can affect what is an appropriate diet and serious illness or injury can result. This is why Nutritional Counseling needs to be covered by the Professional Liability policy for fitness professionals.
Fit Pros should Select Industry Standard Liability Limits of at least $1,000,000 Per Occurrence.
There are a number of important considerations for fitness professionals to review in determining what liability limits are appropriate for their business. The driving factor for most trainers is the insurance requirements of the facility(s) where they will work. Most facilities require trainers to carry liability limits that match their own policy limits. These are most commonly $1,000,000 per Occurrence and $2,000,000 Aggregate (total amount for the policy year) but they can be higher.
Each fitness professional should also make sure they have enough insurance to protect their individual business and personal assets. The specific exposures of their business, such as, the populations they are training or the activities they engage in with their clients can significantly impact their risk and the amount of insurance they should purchase. For example, higher limits should potentially be selected when working with at risk populations or minors. The amount of nutritional counseling and nutritional product or supplement sales that a trainer engages in should also be considered.
Most insurance carriers offer higher underlying limits and Umbrella or Excess Liability policies if higher limits are needed.
Other Liability Coverages Are Also Important for Fitness Professionals
As discussed above, Professional liability insurance covers a trainer’s/coach's/instructor's own services as a fitness professional. There are a number of other exposures including personal and advertising injury, cyber liability, product and completed operations, sexual abuse and molestation and premises liability that are also potentially important for fitness professionals. These coverages can be purchased, along with the Professional Liability, in comprehensive policies designed for fitness professionals by insurance carriers and programs that specialize in serving the fitness industry.
Personal injury coverage protects against claims of libel, slander and wrongful invasion of privacy. Libel is defined as defamation by written or printed words or images including electronic media. Slander is defined as defamation by spoken word. Invasion of Privacy involves the violation of a person’s right to be left alone. This may include harassment or the improper sharing of client information.
Advertising Liability claims can arise out of misappropriation of advertising ideas, such as the infringement of copyright on established brands, titles or slogans committed in the course of advertising your services.
Cyber Liability is a term used for the liability of using electronic media in advertising and promotions that can result in copyright, libel or invasion of privacy claims. This can include the unauthorized use of a client’s name or photo on either a website or social media. With the huge growth of all forms of social media in the advertising and promotion for fitness businesses, this exposure produces the most questions today from both fitness professionals and fitness facilities.
Product and Completed Operations coverage can protect a fitness professional if they selling any products, including nutritional supplements, smoothies, clothing or fitness equipment.
Sexual Abuse and Molestation coverage is an insurance coverage for fitness professionals because they have exposure for these types of claims. A client can misinterpret actions or words and claim sexual misconduct with the fitness professional having no idea what they did or said to offend the client. If a trainer works with minors it is absolutely critical to carry this coverage.
Premises Liability relates to the liability inherent in the physical premises of the facility. The owner and management of the fitness center or studio primarily insures this exposure. A fitness professional, however, can be named in a lawsuit filed by one of their clients in a premises claim against a facility. This is why a fitness professional should purchase a policy that does not exclude premises coverage.
Fitness facilities can require fit pros to name them as Additional Insured.
It is standard practice for fitness centers and studios to require fitness professionals working inside their facilities to name them as Additional Insured on their individual policies. This means that the fit pro’s policy would potentially cover the facility for claims arising from the trainer’s work with their clients. The fitness professional may need to present a certificate of insurance document to the facility. Most insurance carriers will provide these certificates and some may charge an additional fee for this.
What Is the Next Step for a Fitness Professional?
Review the information above prior to purchasing an individual insurance policy or prior to renewing a current policy. Make sure insurance coverage does not lapse each year at renewal so there is no gap in coverage. All fitness professionals should keep themselves protected with the right insurance coverage as they grow as professionals and succeed in their business.
Discounts for PTontheNet Members
PTontheNet is proud to partner with Sports and Fitness Insurance Company to offer the best in Fitness Professional insurance. Through PTontheNet’s exclusive partnership, PTontheNet members can save $15 annually on their insurance premiums.
Not a PTontheNet member? You can still save $5 on your annual premium through the PTontheNet friends and family discount.