ACSM CPT Chapter 22: Legal Issues and Responsibilities

ACSM CPT Chapter 22: Legal Issues and Responsibilities

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    Chapter Objectives:

    • Know the main areas for potential legal liability.
    • Know the role of the industry standards and the guidelines for legal liability issues.
    • Discover the practical strategies for managing risk.

    Effectively Minimizing Risks

    Proper Qualifications

    The first step that trainers can take for the minimization of risk and liability is to reach the proper qualifications for the job they are getting.  This may change depending on where you are working.

    Clients have filed claims in the past after they have injured themselves on the fact that the trainer didn’t have the qualifications that the facility advertises in their literature.

    The best evidence trainers can give is to show that they meet to standards for certification and they conduct their business based on the knowledge, skills, and the abilities that is expected of the organization. 

    Screening and documentation

    Preparticipation screening is used for assessing client health and medical history. It is important for enduring that the trainer is able to meet the needs and goals that the client has.

    There should be a written record of the measures kept by the trainer in order for making a specific program. This also includes documentation from client’s physician, if needed.

    Scope of Practice and Professional Collaboration

    The scope of range was discussed in the first two chapters and is a major part of avoiding many legal issues. The trainer needs to have an understanding of the things they are able to prescribe and where they need to refer to other professionals. This referral is very important for the trainers that operate their own business.

    Trainers may be subject to different possible liability when services are given in medical settings. 

    Medical or Dietary Advice

    There have not been any cases where a client has sued for bad medical or even dietary advice. But when looking at supplements, this not true. Even though it hasn’t happened in the other advices, it is very important to know what you can and cannot say. 

    Again, collaborating with the other professionals and using referrals will always be a good road to follow when you are not sure what you can say.


    There are a lot of claims relating to supplementation and sometimes scenarios where the trainers sold supplements and are then sued. So a lot of problems may arise when trainers sell supplements and attempt to increase their revenue when it may not be a good idea for people to use them. 

    There is no third party insurance that offers protection against trainers when they get in trouble with supplements.

    Development of a Comprehensive Risk Management Plan

    Addressing Known Risks

    The areas of possible liability exposure include things like the actual setting where the activities occur, the equipment used in the programs, the nature and the quality of the techniques of training, the advice given, and the services rendered, the degree of preparedness for emergencies, the responsiveness for emergencies, and the method of keeping and protecting kept records.

    Safe Premises

    The trainers need to take basic precautions like developing emergency action plans and injury prevention plans for the ensuring of training settings being reasonably safe.

    Emergency Response

    There is a possibility that claims can arise from trainers that fail to give emergency responses if the failure leads to death or it could have been avoided.

    Premise Liability

    Slip and Fall Injuries

    This is the number one area for claims occurring against professionals and the facilities. 

    Clients are entitled to conditions that are viewed as reasonably safe. 

    Equipment issues

    The law doesn’t envision accidents happening, but the laws and industry standards and guidelines exist for the encouragement of proactive safe behavior for avoiding preventable accidents.

    Free weights

    Oftentimes this kind of liability and claim occurs when the trainer recommends the use of higher weight than the client can perform when they are fatigues, thus resulting in some form of injury.

    Weight machines

    There is a big reduction in the injuries that occur from the use of weight machines because of the added stability and the restriction of movement. The trainer should simply inform the client of the proper use and assist with choosing weights that allow the person to use this proper form.

    Cardiovascular machines

    Treadmills are the most popular form of exercise equipment that is used in facilities. Trainers need to remain as alert as possible about their clients and also inform the clients of proper ways to stop the machine or dismount it.

    Claims of Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment claims are a third area for possible liability for trainers according to the providers of insurance. The relationship with trainers and clients can seem intimate and create some opportunities for abusive conduct or misinterpretation to occur. 

    One strategy for preventing his is to always ask your clients for permission for the use of tactile spotting and to avoid this unless it needs to be done.

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    Continuing Education and Adherence to Ethical Guidelines

    There are four elements that plaintiffs must prove for success in a negligence claim. These four are duty, breach of duty, proximate cause, and damages.

    Courts often stick to the industry standards when looking at things like the standard of care. A lot of times the past training claims will predict the future ones. It can be quite hard to prove these four things, but when a client does in a negligence claim, they will have won the lawsuit.

    Development of a Business Plan

    Business model structure will vary based upon the person’s needs and objectives they have set and the laws that the state they are in has in terms of business organizations. Independent options for business do not actually give the trainer any protection of their own assets. The formation of business entities will grant the protection of one’s own assets. A buy-sale agreement should be met when trainers enter a partnership or business with other individuals.

    Risk-Management Strategies

    Personal trainers are the first lien of defense for legal issues and, as so, they should make written policies, procedures, and forms that will satisfy the industry standards and guidelines and they should keep written records for the compliance of policies regarding documentation.

    We should also carry our professional liability insurance, as this protects us and gives the risk to the insurer.

    Written Policies, Procedures, and Forms

    Again, proper keeping of written policies, procedures, and forms is key to preventing claims against you. Some of the important forms for trainers to know about are:

    • Preparticipation screening forms.
    • Health history questionnaire.
    • A physician’s statement and medical clearance.
    • The evaluation form or fitness assessment.
    • The notes for client progress.
    • The incident reports. 

    Informed Consent, Release, or Waiver

    Waivers are being held up more often as a form of protection from litigation. 

    An assumption of risk or informed consent form will explain that there is risk associated with the activity that the client is seeking to do, and the client will be agreeing to taking on that risk.

     Waiver or a release of liability is some form that the client agrees to waive or release the trainer from any liability from negligence of the trainer.

    Professional Liability Insurance

    Professional liability insurance gives a broad spectrum of protection from claims like those that come from negligence, breaches of contract, and sexual harassment, and it can also give coverage for injuries to people or the property. This is often purchased outside of the gym you work in, as the gym will have its own form of insurance, too.

    Client Confidentiality

    The failure of protection of client confidentiality is an area of possible liability that is emerging for the trainers. The trainers need to have detailed records kept and then they need to protect that information well. 

    User records will only be given out with that person’s signature authorization. This is for any purpose at all.

    ACSM CPT Chapter 22: Legal Issues and Responsibilities 1
    ACSM CPT Chapter 22: Legal Issues and Responsibilities 2

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