Personal Trainer Liability – Insurance Coverage Types

Personal trainer liability is a growing area of personal injury law.  Personal trainer liability has unique insurance coverage issues.  Gyms that employ personal trainers typically carry two different insurance policies.  The first is Commercial General Liability (CGL).  A Professional Errors and Omissions (E&O) policy is the other type.  Whether a claim is covered by a CGL or E&O policy depends on how a particular injury occurs and the applicable insurance policy language.

Increased Demand for Personal Trainers

Personal trainer liability has increased the past several years.  More people have hired personal trainers to increase weight loss and achieve a healthy lifestyle.  Not all personal trainers have the same competence. Some lack the knowledge or experience to competently program for clients and provide a safe environment.  Exercise and physical activity involves an inherent risk of injury.  If a personal trainer’s negligence increases the risk of injury, a client may be entitled to compensation if he or she injured because of the increased risk.

Common personal injury claims against personal trainers occur because of negligent programming, negligent instruction, negligent supervision, slip and fall incidents, equipment failure or improper equipment maintenance.  A personal trainer owes a client a duty of reasonable care.  If the claim involves negligent programming, instruction or supervision, a fitness expert will need to establish the standard of care.  Whether a personal trainer breaches the standard of care in a particular case will largely depend on the client’s athletic background, current conditioning level and known prior injuries or conditions.  A waiver may adversely affect the client’s ability to recover personal injury damages.  An article detailing waivers is available here.

The two primary insurance policies that cover personal trainer liability claims are:

Personal Trainer – Commercial General Liability (CGL)

A Commercial General Liability (CGL) insurance policy covers personal trainer liability for occurrences resulting in a bodily injury.  What’s an occurrence is fairly broad.  For example, an occurrence is likely a personal trainer who drops a weight on a client’s foot.   Another example is a personal trainer who loads a bar with weight but forgets to properly secure the bar with a clip.  The client takes the weight overhead, and the load drops from the bar onto the client and causes injury.  The occurrence stems for the personal trainer whose act leads to injury, but the act is something other than professional advice or instruction.

What about if a personal trainer programs and instructs a deconditioned client to perform a dynamic and high impact movement, which leads to injury. For example, a personal trainer programs depth jumps and instructs a deconditioned client to perform this.  The client, who lacks lower body strength, suffers an ACL injury or Achilles tendon tear.  The client sustained personal injuries due to his or her reliance on the personal trainer’s professional advice and judgment.  Because the personal injury involved professional advise and judgment, this may be excluded from the CGL policy, and instead, covered by a professional errors and omissions (E&O) policy.

Personal Trainer – Professional Errors and Omissions (E&O) 

A personal trainer offers professional advice by instructing movements, supervising clients, programming a workout or demonstrating exercises.  As such, the personal trainer presents himself or herself with superior skill and knowledge in fitness or strength and conditioning.  The client relies upon this skill and knowledge that the programming will be suitable for the client’s athletic background, current conditioning level and physical limitations.  Further, as a client fatigues and decision making deteriorates during training, the client’s reliance becomes even more heightened.

Errors and omissions (E&O) policies cover this type of claim.  A personal trainer who errors in professional judgment causing personal injury, death, property damage or financial loss.  A CGL policy may not cover this type of claim depending on the language.  Because the personal trainer intended that his or her client engage in the recommend training, perform an exercise or take some other act that results in personal injury.

This means that if the client sustains injury from his or her reliance on a personal trainer’s advice or recommendations (e.g. performing depth squats), an E&O policy is intended to cover this type of claim.

Contact SFI Law Group if your personal trainer’s negligence has caused you to sustain personal injuries.  We can guide you though the process of seeking compensation from your personal trainer’s liability policy.