A lawsuit for a personal trainer’s negligence is a personal injury claim seeking compensation for injuries caused by the trainer’s negligence. The claim may be brought against the trainer themself, against the trainer’s employer, and/or against the fitness facility where the training took place.
Typical examples of personal trainer negligence include things such as:
- Telling you to lift too much weight,
- Not spotting you as you lift weight or exercise,
- Failing to correct bad exercising form,
- Ignoring your complaints of pain and causing long-term harm, or
- Forgetting about a prior injury and putting you on an exercise regimen that leads to an injury.
These lawsuits can be filed against the personal trainer and their employer (part of a fitness center injury lawsuit). The compensation is meant to cover the medical bills and other expenses caused by the personal trainer’s negligence.
In this article, our California personal injury lawyers discuss:
- 1. What are lawsuits for negligence by a personal trainer?
- 2. How can I implicate the gym or the personal trainer’s employer in the lawsuit?
- 3. What kind of compensation can I recover?
- 4. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
- 5. What are common defenses a personal trainer or gym can raise?
1. What are lawsuits for negligence by a personal trainer?
Personal trainer lawsuits are personal injury claims against a fitness expert. You can file a personal trainer lawsuit if you worked with one and they hurt you through their negligence.
Fitness trainers can act negligently whenever they:
- Have you perform the wrong exercises,
- Exercise for too long,
- Exercise with too much weight,
- Set up exercise equipment incorrectly,
- Make use of equipment that is defective,
- Do not correct poor exercising form,
- Fail to properly supervise you while you exercise, or
- Fail to notice that you have hurt yourself and continue to push you through repetition.
The harm you can suffer in these situations can be serious injuries:
- Pulled muscles,
- Muscle tears,
- Muscle strains or sprains,
- Nerve damage,
- Heart attack
- Spinal injuries requiring back surgery,
- Broken bones, or
- Wrongful death1
Personal trainer lawsuits claim that these injuries were caused by the trainer’s negligence. They argue that the trainer or their employer should be held liable.
2. How can I implicate the gym or the personal trainer’s employer in the lawsuit?
Implicating the personal trainer’s employer is important. The personal trainer is unlikely to have the assets to fully compensate you (unless they have good personal trainer insurance).
Though the fitness industry often has deep pockets and large liability insurance policies. You can try to make the personal trainer’s employer liable through two legal arguments:
- Vicarious liability, and
- Negligent hiring, training, or supervision.
By showing that the trainer’s employer should be held liable, you can ensure you get the full amount of compensation you deserve.
2.1. Vicarious liability
Vicarious liability is a legal argument. It aims to hold an employer liable for negligence claims against its employees. Those negligent acts – arising out of breaches of duty of care – often have to be made inside the scope of employment.2
When a personal trainer works for a company like a gym, their time with you will almost certainly fall within their scope of employment. They are often getting paid specifically to help you get fit. If they are negligent while doing so, their employer can be held liable for your injuries.
2.2. Negligent hiring, training, or supervision
You can also argue that the trainer’s employer should be held liable because they negligently hired, trained, or supervised the trainer.
In California, this requires showing:
- The trainer was incompetent or unfit to help you train,
- The gym or employer should have known about this unfitness,
- The trainer’s poor skills hurt you, and
- The employer’s hiring, training, or supervision was a substantial factor in your injuries.3
It is important that your injuries have a causal nexus to the trainer’s job.4 It is also important that the employer created the particular risk or hazard that led to your injury.5
Depending on the case, potential evidence of negligent hiring could be if the trainer lacked certification from an accrediting organization. (Note that California does not require that personal trainers be licensed.)
3. What kind of compensation can I recover?
You can recover compensatory damages that aim to cover all of your losses associated with your injuries. This can include:
- Medical bills you have already paid,
- Anticipated future medical expenses,
- Wages lost while you recovered – something especially important for people with physically active jobs,
- Lost earning capacity in the future,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Loss of consortium for your family.
You can also pursue punitive damages. These aim to punish the person you are suing for particularly bad conduct. They are rarely awarded in claims based on someone else’s negligence, though.
4. How long do I have to file a lawsuit?
You have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit for your personal trainer’s negligence. The statute of limitations dictates how long you have before this time expires.
In California, for example, you have 2 years to file your lawsuit from the time of your injury.6
5. What are common defenses a personal trainer or gym can raise?
If you sue your personal trainer or gym for injuries caused by their negligence, they will likely raise legal defenses to your claim.
The most likely defenses they will raise include:
- You signed a liability waiver that disclaimed their liability,
- You assumed the risk of getting hurt by working out, and/or
- You were partially to blame.
5.1. You signed a liability waiver
Gyms and many other businesses require you to sign a liability waiver before providing a service. This waiver includes various agreements that you will not sue them in certain situations. Liability waivers often force you to agree that you will not sue if you get hurt by a personal trainer’s negligence.
5.2. You assumed the risk
Gyms and personal trainers are also likely to claim that you assumed the risk of your injury. This defense argues that you chose to participate in the dangerous activity that got you hurt. It claims that the risks were inherent and obvious, but you did it, anyway.
5.3. You were partially to blame for your injury
Personal trainers and their employers will also claim that you were partially to blame for your injuries.
Most states, including California, use a comparative fault law. This compares the fault of the victim and the defendant for the injury. The percentage of fault borne by the victim reduces the compensation they can receive.
Gyms and personal trainers often try to blame you because it can reduce the amount they have to pay.
If you have suffered at the hands of your personal trainer, you deserve to be compensated. Contact our personal injury attorneys for help filing a lawsuit today. We can consult about your legal issues in our offices or over the phone or video-conference.
- See, for example, L. Notebook et. al., Factors associated with gym-based fitness injuries: A case-control study, JSAMS Plus (2023).
- Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc., (Cal. 1986) 719 P.2d 676. See also Nelson v. Kaufman, (2020) 166 Idaho 270, 458 P.3d 139. See also Jimenez v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc., (2015) 237 Cal. App. 4th 546. Carr v. Wm. C. Crowell Co., (Cal. 1946) 28 Cal.2d 652.
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 426.
- Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, (Cal. 1995) 907 P.2d 358.
- Phillips v. TLC Plumbing, Inc., (Cal. App. 2000) 91 Cal.Rptr.3d 864.
- California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1.
- Santa Barbara v. Superior Court, (Cal. 2007) 41 Cal.4th 747.