A Grim Health Club Insurance Tale For Owners

woman-notebook-working-girl (1)Once upon a time…

an aerobics instructor at a health club took her class participants on a surprise jog around a nearby park.  It was a beautiful day and she thought the fresh air and scenery would be a nice change of pace from the club.  Everyone in the class agreed, so off they went!  

During the run, one of the members tripped, fell and fractured her wrist. As fate would have it, the member had no health insurance, which motivated her to hire an attorney who went on to sue the club.  

The member’s attorney based his case on negligence, saying the club changed the expected workout environment thereby increasing the potential hazards resulting in his client’s injuries.  Even though the member freely agreed to participate in the event the club owner still found himself having to hire an attorney to defend the club.  

The club owner’s insurance policy contained a “designated premises” endorsement.  In other words, since the injury did not occur at the location listed on the policy the claim was denied by the insurance company.    

The Moral of the Story

The moral of the story is this: If you want to give your trainers and instructors the freedom to be spontaneous and take members out of the club environment for any kind of training, you must have specific liability coverage for off site activities. In addition, to further protect the club from litigation, you should have the members or participants sign a “special event” waiver prior to leaving the club for the specific event or training.

Don’t Get Caught in the Insurance Gap

This is just one example of the potential problems of conducting your business at a location other than the premises noted on your insurance policy.  It’s a fairly common practice these days for club owners to contract with local high schools and community centers to offer training services or fitness instruction at their locations. This is how many club owners find out about the gap in insurance coverage. Usually the high school or city government requires that the club provide a certificate of insurance naming them as an additional insured.  

A Few Tips to Keep Your Club Functioning Happily Ever After

Here are a few easy steps you should consider when engaging in off premises events.

  1. Call your agent to let them know what type of off site events you plan to promote during course of the year.
  2. Make sure you do not have a “designated premises” endorsement on your policy.
  3. Everyone who participates in these off premises events should sign a “Special Event Waiver”.
  4. Keep the events safe.  Leave the obstacle course jungle training challenges to the “Fear Factor” folks.
  5. Never transport members to an off site event.  Everyone should take their own cars or you can contract with a private transportation company (buses or vans).  Be sure to get a certificate of insurance from that transportation company verifying that they have auto and general liability insurance coverage.

It is always important to call your agent whenever you engage in any activity both in and out of the health club if that activity falls outside of your club’s normal operations. Also, if you have companies or individuals that come into your club to promote a service, demonstration, body fat testing, etc, be sure to require that these entities provide you with a certificate of insurance naming the club as an additional insured.

Owning a health club or fitness facility is a big responsibility. Making sure you have the proper insurance to cover the club on and off premises will go a long way in helping you make it to happily ever after!