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  • How to Protect Yourself

    Posted on July 27th, 2012 Patricia No comments

    The question is, what should fitness professionals do to protect against liability for negligence when the client is a minor? Two types of protective documents are available to club owners and fitness professionals: the waiver and the agreement to participate.

    1 The waiver is a formal contract by which the signer relinquishes certain rights (i.e., the right to sue for injuries due to the negligence of the fitness professional). The agreement to participate is not a contract and the signer does not relinquish the right to sue the fitness professional, but is rather a document that informs clients of the nature of the activity, the inherent risks to be encountered through participation and the behaviors expected of the client. Agreements to participate serve to strengthen the assumption of risk and contributory negligence defenses whether the client is a minor or an adult.

    Some people may discourage the use of waivers and recommended using agreements to participate when dealing with minor clients; however, in light of these new court rulings, it would seem prudent for fitness professionals to use both the liability waiver (in seeking protection against liability for negligence) and the agreement to participate (in seeking protection against liability for the inherent risks of the activity). Both documents can be placed on a single sheet of paper, with a location for signatures following each. Include signature blanks for both the parent and the minor following both.

    Fitness professionals have little to lose in requiring a signed waiver from minor clients — as long as they realize that it may not effectively protect against liability for negligence.

    It is essential to incorporate other risk-management techniques (insurance, inspections, risk-management plans, agreements to participate) along with the waiver. In no case would it be prudent to rely solely on a waiver.

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