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Expert Witness Fitness Injury – Can I file a claim

By August 31, 2016Blog

Recent surveys of selected health/fitness facilities conducted by a number of industry professionals, (HINT) have demonstrated that many health clubs and fitness facilities and the professionals working within them have not routinely provided pre-activity participant screening.  Clearly the applicable industry standards and guidelines mandate that such screening take place prior to the individualized “prescription” or recommendations for beginning activity to participants, especially if the expected aerobic and/or strength exercises include those of moderate or higher intensity.  While these same recent survey results also indicated that many industry professionals were unaware of at least some of these standards, it is essential to understand that the lack of familiarity with these statements is not a defense for failing to adhere to such standards. In fact, a failure to screen or even perform screening in a manner consistent with these standards which proximately results in client injury may actually increase the likelihood of legal claims and suits based upon negligence.  This unfortunate situation may be even more likely for personal fitness trainers (PFT) who can probably be expected to be held to a higher standard of care than most other fitness professionals. While personal trainers may not yet be classified as health care professionals and therefore subject legally only to negligence actions (not medical malpractice type lawsuits), legal claims and lawsuits against such professionals are likely to require expert opinion testimony to be successfully asserted against them. Opinion testimony is generally provided in litigation by experts within a given field who provide opinions as to negligence, information about industry standards, and whether deviation or adherence to such standards occurred in the delivery of service by the defendant.  Such testimony then is used by fact finders such as juries to determine whether or not the defendant committed negligence through the delivery of substandard care which proximately caused harm to the person who brought the claim and suit – the plaintiff.  The process of providing individualized exercise parameters for a client (mode, intensity, duration, and progression) and the supervision provided by personal fitness trainers have been the subject of at several reported legal cases. Such suits have been filed predicated on claims of “negligent training, monitoring, instruction, supervision and advice,” those related to the alleged development of unsuitable activity for clients and those related to other alleged deficiencies occurring over the course of ongoing personal trainer activity.  Client injuries based upon claims that clients were told to use too much weight, too much resistance or engage in too many exercise repetitions have been put forth with some regularity.  While such claims of negligence result in personal consequences to those directly involved in the litigation, these events collectively often result in industry actions and in some instances legislative proposals for licensure and other forms of proposed public regulation for personal trainers. These are some guidelines that can help the fitness centers, and gyms decrease liability. I provide risk assessment for many fitness centers.