Gyms that were open during COVID will remember the scramble to get everything online for virtual training. Many of us look back on that time and shutter at the thought of having to watch another group class over Zoom. However, some gym have kept virtual training. Some offer virtual programming where the gym sends the client a program and the client goes to his/her own gym to complete the program. Others offer virtual private training where a trainer from the gym watches and instructs the client while watching over video. Regardless of the type of training the gym is offering, there are three items we look for to make sure gyms are protecting themselves from liability.
1. Designated Premises Exception
We thank our friends over at Affiliate Guard for help with the first item: The Designated Premises Exception. This is a small part of you liability insurance policy that designates where your insurance covers you and where it doesn’t. If your policy does not have a designated premises exception, then your insurance coverage limits you to running services within the four (4) walls of your brick and mortar location. In this instance, your insurance does not consider virtual training to be a service you offer in your physical location. Thus, if an online client starts a legal action over something you delivered online, you may not be covered by your insurance.
Make sure your insurance has you covered, ask your provider to include a Designated Premises Exception. Affiliate Guard knows our industry and the specific demands our industry presents.
2. A Waiver and Membership Contract
We’ve drafted blog posts in the past about the importance of liability waivers and membership contracts for gyms. The content of these posts primarily speaks to the gyms running physical locations. However, the same applies online. You still need clients to sign a waiver when you are training virtually. Anytime you tell someone to do something (like a workout), you are exposing yourself to liability. The client receiving the programming could sue you for any reason. Therefore, you need a liability waiver. Further, you need a liability waiver that is different than the one you use at your gym. This waiver needs to be written more for virtual training services and include provisions like a Digital Video Acknowledgment.
You also need a membership contract. Anytime you take money from a client, and take that money on an automatically recurring basis, you need a written contract. You also have other policies, like cancellation and hold/freeze policies. Put these in writing so your clients know what to expect. Setting the expectations in writing can head off a lot of future issues.
3. Governing Law and Venue Provisions
Finally, you need to have a governing law and venue section in your liability waiver and membership contract. If you want a real world example of this, go pull out any other contract you’ve signed in the last year. This could be your cell phone contract, CrossFit Affiliation Agreement, or your home internet agreement. Flip to the end of the contract and you will find a section that designates where lawsuits can be filed against the company. In laymen’s terms, it will say something like, if you want to sue CrossFit, you have to go to Colorado to do so and Colorado law will apply. This is a governing law and venue provision.
You need to do the same thing in your virtual training contract. Your virtual training could expand to clients all of the United States, maybe even internationally. You don’t want to be sued in California when you live in Florida. Therefore, you want to make sure your contracts require your clients to come to you if they want to make legal troubles.
This Applies Universally
We write these articles as if we are talking to gym owners because those are our primary clients. However, if you are a personal trainer, please know all of this applies to you as well. It doesn’t matter the size of your business. The law applies universally. You need insurance, you need contracts, and the contents of those contracts matter.