WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY LIABILITY EXPOSURES FOR FITNESS FACILITIES?
There are five types of liability exposure common to all health clubs, gyms and fitness studios:
- Sexual misconduct
This discussion will go into the most detail regarding Professional Liability, also known as Errors & Omissions Insurance. A quick summary of all five is below:
- Premises liability refers to the fitness facility and anyone using the space. This includes someone falling on the sidewalk (outside your space) or slipping in the shower/tripping over equipment (inside your space.) Premises liability claims are the most common type of claim in fitness facilities.
- Equipment liability refers to equipment that malfunctions, or is broken/damaged. Fitness facilities should regularly maintain and inspect their equipment. If there is a claim related to equipment, the liability could be with the facility if it has not maintained it properly, or the manufacturer if there is a flaw in the design or material.
- There is an unfortunate exposure to sexual abuse and molestation claims due to the close manner of contact trainers have with their clients in certain class and personal training situations. This exposure is increased if clients at the facility are under the age of 18. These claims can be physical or related to inappropriate comments.
- The fourth liability type is professional liability. Fitness instructors of all types have an insurance exposure for things they say and also for things they do NOT say. The best example of this would be if an injured client claims the trainer did not show them how to properly use a piece of equipment. A fitness facility should have professional liability coverage for all employees and independent contractors.
- Products liability refers to the sale of food, drink or clothing at the facility.
How do I know if I have Professional Liability Coverage?
Professional Liability Insurance, is also known as Errors & Commissions Insurance. This type of insurance protects a business from claims filed by clients due to errors, negligence, or omissions while rendering Professional Services. Fitness instruction falls under the definition of professional services due to the specialized knowledge required.
Professional Liability Insurance coverage may be included on your already existing General Liability policy. You will want to verify that the limit for Professional Liability matches the full policy limit. Take the time to read through any exclusions that may be listed on the General Liability policy as related to Professional Liability coverage.
If Professional Liability Insurance coverage is not included in your General Liability policy, it can also be purchased separately as a stand-alone policy. It is highly recommended that the stand-alone policy is written on an Occurrence Basis rather than Claims Made basis. The reason for this is that an occurrence based policy protects a business from a covered incident that occurs during the policy period. If a claim is filed after the policy has been cancelled, it is still covered if the incident occurred when the policy was active.
Another important distinction with an occurrence based policy is that the coverage limits restore each year. This means a claim paid for 2021 will not deplete the coverage limits for 2022.
One final important question to ask – How do you know if your instructors and trainers are covered under your policy at your facility?
If a personal trainer, group exercise instructor or any fitness professional is a direct employee of the facility where they teach or train the clients, they are most likely covered by that fitness studio’s general liability and professional liability insurance policies. It is still recommended that this be verified for all policies.
However, if a fitness professional is an independent contractor that schedules and trains their own clients in a facility owned by someone else, they are mostly likely NOT covered by the general liability or professional liability policies of the studio. Fitness facilities should require these independent contractors to show proof of obtaining their own liability insurance prior to beginning work. The limit for their policy should match the limit of the studio’s policy. The fitness facility should request to be named Additional Insured on the independent contractor’s policy.
If a fitness professional is being paid as an independent contractor, but the studio schedules the clients and/or classes that they teach, they may be covered on the studio’s policy. This should be verified since the language of polices can vary.
All fitness professionals working inside a fitness facility should have Professional Liability coverage either through the studio’s policy or on their own individual policy with the facility added as Additional Insured.
There are great products available that are tailored specifically to the fitness industry and we would love to walk you through what you should have to protect you and your fitness business.