Protecting Yourself from Lawsuits
As unpleasant as the topic of lawsuits can be, it is a necessary topic for discussion. You need to do everything in your power to prevent being sued and to win a suit, should one be brought against you. Proper documentation, along with the development and use of informed consent and liability waivers, may help protect you from lawsuits. These forms must be able to hold up to scrutiny by a court of law and should be written or at least reviewed by a lawyer.
Informed Consent and Liability Waivers
The purpose of informed consent is to make the client aware of the dangers and risks of the activities he will be performing. By signing the form, the client acknowledges he is aware of and willing to accept the risks involved in participating in an exercise program. This is not the same thing as a waiver. A waiver will actually release you, the trainer, from responsibility for possible injury or death resulting from your programs. Neither of these forms will cover you if your behavior was grossly negligent, so always act with caution and care. Maintaining your standard of care and acting within your scope of practice are essential components to preventing lawsuits.
When you are working with a client, keep dated records of the exercises they performed and at what intensity. It is best to record the information during the session so you do not have to rely on your memory and do not have to worry about it later. You might also consider making a note of what you discussed during the appointment. While this is done partly to track a client's progress, it is also another form of protection against lawsuits. If the court questions your actions or advice, you have a written record of exactly what the client did during every session, as well as your recommendations to the client.