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 to minimize 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 injuring themselves because 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 standards for certification and conduct their business based on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are expected of the organization. 

Screening and documentation

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

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

Scope of Practice and Professional Collaboration

The scope of the range was discussed in the first two chapters and is a major part of avoiding many legal issues. The trainer needs to understand what they can prescribe and where they need to refer to other professionals. This referral is very important for trainers that operate their own businesses.

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Trainers may be subject to different possible liabilities 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 is not true. Even though it hasn’t happened in the other advice, knowing what you can and cannot say is very important. 

Again, collaborating with other professionals and using referrals will always be a good road to follow when unsure of what you can say.

Supplements

There are a lot of claims relating to supplementation and sometimes scenarios where the trainers sell supplements and are then sued. So many 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 the ensuring of training settings are 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 if it could have been avoided.

Premise Liability

Slip and Fall Injuries

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

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

Equipment issues

The law doesn’t envision accidents happening, but the laws, industry standards, and guidelines exist to encourage proactive, safe behavior to avoid preventable accidents.

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Free weights

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

Weight machines

There is a big reduction in the injuries that occur from using weight machines because of the added stability and the restriction of movement. The trainer should 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 must remain as alert as possible about their clients and inform them of proper ways to stop or dismount the machine.

Claims of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment claims are a third area of possible liability for trainers, according to insurance providers. The relationship between trainers and clients can seem intimate, creating opportunities for abusive conduct or misinterpretation. 

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

Continuing Education and Adherence to Ethical Guidelines

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

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

Development of a Business Plan

The 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 business options do not give the trainer any protection of their 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 line of defense for legal issues. As such, they should make written policies, procedures, and forms that will satisfy the industry standards and guidelines and keep written records for compliance 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 risk is associated with the activity the client seeks to do, and the client will agree to take on that risk.

 Waiver or a release of liability is some form in which the client agrees to waive or release the trainer from any liability from the trainer’s negligence.

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 property. This is often purchased outside of the gym you work in, as the gym will also have its own form of insurance.

Client Confidentiality

The failure to protect client confidentiality is an area of possible liability 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

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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