6 Tips for PT's to Stay Out of Court
With increasing participation in the fitness industry, Personal Trainers are opening themselves up to litigation with slack protocols and procedures. The old saying 'It will never happen to me' could come back to bite you. Here are 6 tips to keep you out of court.
1. EVALUATE CLIENTS FOR INJURY
Simple screening sessions and/or questionnaires are a fantastic way of getting information about a clients history. The most important information to gather is past injuries and general health issues. This info can be extremely handy if a client attempts to blame you for an injury that may have been their in the first place. Also do not neglect screening for Group Exercise Classes. You must ensure participants are told to come forward prior to a class starting if they have any injury concerns.
2. INFORM CLIENT OF POTENTIAL RISK
Notice that whenever you undertake some sort of risky activity: bungy jump, skydive, go kart, rock climb, you are forced to sign a form prior to participating. This form basically is you acknowledging that you have been informed of the risk involved and confirming that despite these risk you are happy to proceed. This is no different for guided physical activity. Don't get caught out, produce a simple waiver form, explain the risks, and get a signature.
3. ENSURE SAFE AND PROPER EQUIPMENT AND ENVIRONMENT
If you are not currently inspecting your equipment and your workout environment then you must start NOW! But only inspecting the area and not documenting that it has been done could be your downfall. Without maintenance or inspection documentation their is no record of when or how often it was completed. Only the list in your head exists. Unfortunately the list in your head won't hold up in court. Get a folder and document. The most common environment missed are outside areas such as parks or fields. Don't rely on the council to keep these areas spotless, common items such as potholes and syringes could land you in hot water if you failed to inspect the area adequately
4. KEEP GOOD RECORDS
Keeping good records is no brainer. An accurate rundown of exactly what was completed in each session should be documented as it will certainly be called upon in a legal setting. You wouldn't want to go to your doctor and have him say 'what was that medication I put you on again?'. You would sue the pants off him! So don't leave yourself open and write things down. It makes me smile every time I see a PT walking around a gym floor with a client and an iPad,
5. IMPROVE YOU LEVEL OF KNOWLEDGE
If you know more, you become more competent, and competence means less mistakes. Simple. Who do you think looks more vulnerable in a court case, an inexperienced PT operating from their shed using a cable machine they brought at a garage sale, or a knowledgeable PT who completes regular professional development, has dual qualifications, a large list of happy clients, and a couple of industry awards. I know which one I'd rather be on the stand.
6. FIND YOUR HIGHER AUTHORITY
Picture this: you have a client who comes into your PT session only 9 weeks post an ACL reconstruction and you are not sure what they should or shouldn't be doing. Do you just wing it or do you recommend they see a Physiotherapist first? The Physiotherapist is your higher authority. By getting input from your higher authority you are simple shifting or handing over the risk. The Physio can then give you guidelines to work within. If an injury happens under those guidelines you are pretty much in the clear as you are only following the recommendations of your higher authority. See how it works. We as Physio's have our higher authority, we can refer to a Sports Physician or GP and follow their recommendations. It a way of handling risk and something you need to consider. If you just winged it and the client ruptures their ACL graft, guess who could be in serious legal trouble.....YOU!
Devon Soutar - Physiotherapist | Managing Director @ ABSOLUTE