How much of a risk-taker are you? If you’re like a lot of gym owners, you’re willing to take calculated risks. Risks that will presumably lead to growth. But protecting your gym from liability shouldn’t be one of them. And therefore, it’s crucial that you have a rock-solid gym waiver.
Perhaps you currently have a waiver, and you’re diligent about all visitors signing it before they use your facility. But where did it come from? Many gym owners use generic templates they found online. Or they borrowed one from another gym owner.
So the more important question is: Will it really protect you in the event of an incident?
Matthew Becker says if you want to be legally protected in the case of a lawsuit, you should never rely on a generic gym waiver.
Becker is a gym owner, a lawyer and the owner of GymLawyers.com, a company aimed at educating gym owners about legal matters that impact their business. Speaking from years of experience, he recommends taking the time to draft a waiver that will actually protect your gym.
The Trio of Danger: Three Sections Your Gym Waiver Needs
Becker explained that when aiming to protect your gym legally, it starts with “avoiding the trio of danger.” In other words, there are three distinct sections that need to be included in your gym waiver, in order for it to hold up in a lawsuit.
1. Acknowledgment of Danger.
The first section essentially needs to acknowledge that the person “could get hurt here,” Becker said. In saying that, it also needs to be reasonably clear about how the member or guest could get hurt.
For example, at a functional fitness or CrossFit gym, immediate risks include things like broken bones, or injuries to shins, ligaments or joints. Further, it should outline overuse ailments that occur over time, such as tendonitis. Essentially, Becker explained that all types of potential injuries need to be laid out in the waiver.
This is one of the reasons why simply borrowing a gym waiver from another fitness business won’t suffice. A gymnastics facility, parkour gym or MMA studio all have different risks and potential dangers. And these things can even vary from one CrossFit gym to another.
“The bottom line is, it needs to be very specific to the individual gym,” Becker said. “It can’t just be a general sentence of the threat of musculoskeletal damage, paralyzation or death.”
2. Acceptance of Responsibility.
The second section of your rock-solid gym waiver is about confirming that the person accepts responsibility for participation. According to Becker, they’re acknowledging the fact that they’re subjecting themselves to something that could be dangerous.
“This is where somebody says, ‘I get that this could be dangerous. I’m exposing myself to danger by being in this gym, but I’m accepting responsibility for walking in and exposing myself to it,’” he said.
He then added that this section can be as simple as one clear paragraph on the waiver.
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3. Assumption of Risk.
The final section that your gym wavier needs is the assumption of risk. This section states that, despite knowing that they’re exposing themselves to danger, they’re willing to take this risk.
This section is important because your members and guests are not just saying they’re aware that there are risks. In this section, they’re assuming these risks in order to participate.
“Now, you’re going to assume that anything within that gym is dangerous,” Becker said. “And you are now assuming the risk by going into the gym and continuing the activities.”
One More Thing: Clarity is Key.
Even with the trio of danger included within a waiver, Becker said the most common mistake he sees is that gym owners don’t make things crystal clear.
“Either they don’t have those sections outlined specifically within their waiver, or sometimes that kind of language is in there, but it’s garbled together in large paragraphs,” he said. “And even if they do have some of those sections delineated in the waiver, the language itself is insufficient.”
So step one is to ensure the three sections are outlined in your waiver. And step two is to focus on clarity, which can pose a struggle for gym owners. From there, you’ll also want include things like physical touch acknowledgement, likeness waivers, indemnification clauses and more.
This is where Becker and his Gym Lawyers team come in. They work with each unique fitness business to draft a customized gym waiver. All with the goal of protecting the gym owner and the business in the event of a lawsuit.
In Summary: Avoid the Risk by Protecting Your Gym.
If all goes as planned, your gym will never encounter a lawsuit. And statistically speaking, it’s unlikely! However, it’s also not worth taking your chances, no matter how big of a risk-taker you are.
So as Matthew Becker explains, avoid using a generic, online template or borrowing a gym waiver from another fitness business.
Instead, it starts with protecting your fitness business from the trio of danger. Make sure your waiver includes an acknowledgement of danger, acceptance of responsibility and assumption of risk. And remember that clarity is key.
Pro Tip: Need help? Contact the experts at Gym Lawyers to keep your business protected for years to come!