Fitness Certifications ▶
Continuing Education ▶
Fitness Pro Resources ▶
My ACE Account ▶
About ACE ▶
ACE Store ▶
Need Help? Call Us ▶ (888) 825‑3636
Share this page
Pin It

March 28, 2014, 12:00AM PT in Exam Preparation Blog  |  0 Comments

Legal Responsibility

Trainer spotting client

Personal trainers are expected, as a part of their certification, to have attained a level of competency and to adhere to the established standard of care. It is paramount for professionals to be aware of the latest guidelines regarding standard of care. A professional failing to act in a reasonable and prudent manner is said to have committed an act of negligence.

Negligent acts can be defined as an act of omission or an act of commission.

Act of Omission: Failing to act responsibly. Example: A trainer who fails to spot a client who is lifting a considerable amount of weight.

Act of Commission: Performing an act or allowing an individual to perform an act that causes harm. Example: A trainer who asks a client to perform a squat jump, knowing that the client has a knee injury.

Liability waivers potentially provide protection for trainers, in the event a client sustains injury, preventing the client from recovering for damages. The validity of waivers varies from state to state, and should detail the types of activities as well as the potential risk of injury.

Waivers do not protect in the case of gross negligence, which is complete recklessness and disregard for the safety of others. Example: As a trainer is packing up equipment, he knocks over a medicine ball, which rolls into the training area where boot-camp participants are performing jumping jacks, and fails to warn the participants or instructor that the ball is headed in their direction.

Waivers not only protect against injury lawsuits, but also mistakes with regard to exercise that may occur.

In court cases involving negligence there may be scenarios where a client is held responsible for his or her own injury (i.e., contributory negligence), or multiple parties can be held responsible (i.e., comparative negligence).

Contributory Negligence: For example, a client who recently experienced a lower-back injury fails to inform the trainer when he or she is asked to perform a deadlift. The client, in this scenario, has contributed to his or her own injury and cannot recover any money for injury.

Comparative Negligence: Because many states do not use contributory negligence, this is the preferred standard. In this case, the responsibility for the injury is divided between the trainer and the injured client. How much responsibility is awarded to each party depends on the courts’ judgment.

Trainers must be aware of the importance of Insurance, as it protects trainers and their assets against litigation. The more financially successful a trainer becomes, the greater the need to be properly insured. Seeking the best insurance that will provide coverage for the unique aspects of the industry is crucial and should be done prior to beginning training sessions.

Here are five types of insurance you should consider:

General Liability Insurance is specific to the industry and protects in the case of injury due to slips and falls in fitness facilities.

Professional Liability Insurance is specific to the fitness industry and should cover personal injuries likely to occur during training sessions. This should also include coverage in the event that an injured client decides to seek compensation for medical expenses, inability to work, pain and suffering, etc. It is generally recommended that trainers obtain insurance that provides a minimum of $1 million in coverage.

Umbrella liability is recommended in addition to professional liability. It provides added coverage in the event that professional liability falls short of covering expenses for damages awarded in a lawsuit. 

Product liability may be obtained by trainers who sell products, specifically those who own and operate facilities.

Keyman Insurance should be considered by trainers who desire to form partnerships or corporations. Keyman insurance covers a business for the loss of an individual who provides a unique or valuable function. Whether it is loss of the individuals’ function via illness or death, Keyman insurance will assist the business in its recovery from losing a critical resource.

For reasons of safety and care, it is important for trainers to understand what constitutes negligence. It is also vital to take the necessary precautions by obtaining the appropriate type of insurance to protect you in your practice as a fitness professional.

By Makeba Edwards


Makeba is a Study Assistance Representative for ACE, and holds a B.S. in Exercise Science and Sports Studies. She is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer Group Fitness Instructor. She also a Les Mills Certified Group Fitness Instructor and teaches several modalities.

  • Filed Under:
    Exam Content 
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars  3 Comments & Ratings
  • Permalink: