What exactly is a waiver? Most people have agreed to a waiver at one point or another, perhaps when renting skis, going horseback riding, hiring a personal trainer, or engaging in some other service or recreation that involves some degree of risk, bodily or otherwise. But what exactly are waivers, and what power do they carry?
A waiver is a relinquishment of legal claim for damages in the event of an incident causing harm to the customer or client. As a personal trainer, for example, if a client who’d signed a waiver sprained an ankle while under your instruction, the waiver would hypothetically relieve you of responsibility for the injury in a legal sense.
Gyms are full of potentially dangerous equipment and people maneuvering around this equipment, as well as amenities like pools, saunas, and steam rooms. This is in addition to the ordinary risks of injury such as stairs or parking lots. By signing a liability waiver, clients acknowledge the risks inherent to their presence and participation, and theoretically agree to remove legal liability from the trainer or the fitness center which employs him or her – even in the case of human negligence or faulty machinery.
“Theoretically”, because this is not actually an airtight legal arrangement. Read on.
In practice, waivers carry much less clout than their scary language might lead one to believe. Different states have different laws concerning waivers and their legal power to totally protect, and in many cases, the circumstances of the accident in question can override waiver terms and lead to unpleasant legal battles. For this reason, trainers must ensure that they’re protected in the event of unexpected scenarios.
Here are some occupational and legal ways PTs can avoid trouble and stay protected:
- Don’t let your credentials lapse. Make sure to be prepared well in advance of certification expiry dates, and take the necessary steps to stay certified. Of course, stay in top form with your knowledge and certification of CPR and AED in particular.
- Always keep learning. There’s no end to the amount of expertise you can have in training, safety, and emergency situations – and this knowledge can make all the difference in unforeseen scenarios.
- Stay alert to your clients’ training status. Check in regularly with their workout plans to make sure they’re not overexerting or training incorrectly. This is especially true when dealing with high risk clients such as elderly people or children.
- Protect yourself with excellent liability insurance. Next Insurance specializes in personal trainer insurance with affordable policies designed specifically for fitness instruction needs, affordably and simply protecting you from potential issues like client injury and harmful dietary advice.
- Be mindful of any significant changes to your clients’ disposition, stamina, or diet. Keeping regular records of your observations of every client, not to mention detailed notes on their training programs, will help you keep them safe – and you protected.
Waivers can in some cases serve as protection, but in others, they may not. There’s just too much ambiguity and too much could be at stake to entrust your livelihood completely to waiver signing. Best practice: make sure to establish all the necessary safeguards as essential components of your training practice, and get insured with a solid policy that’s right for you. Hopefully it never will – but should the need arise, these steps could make all the difference.