From youth leagues to the professional level, athletes and athletic service providers have to accept and manage the risk of injuries and other hazards of their sports. For instance, risk management has grown so critical to college-level and pro athletics that insurance coverage has become an important recruiting tool. At all levels, the Insurance Information Institute, or III, found that sports-related injuries accounted for 12 percent of all emergency room admissions and 20 percent of all acute injuries.
Failing to account for the likelihood of accidents and other problems can damage your pocketbook and even your reputation. To manage injury liability and other risks associated with sports and fitness, learn how sports insurance can protect you. Once you take the time to understand this kind of coverage, you’ll be able to compare and buy the best protection for your needs.
Who Needs Sports and Fitness Insurance?
Schools, amateur and professional teams, trainers, health clubs, sporting venues, and nutrition and fitness professionals all assume unavoidable risks. Customers, students, members, or even volunteers could get injured or suffer property damage and claim that you’re responsible. Then they could ask for compensation or even file a lawsuit. Claimants might target the organization or professionals who provided advice, facilities, coaching, or gear.
Operating without adequate coverage is just like waiting for an accident to happen. For example, according to an III summary of recent data from the National Safety Council, these are some facts about common injuries:
- The use of exercise equipment generated more than half a million accidental injuries in one year and ranked as the leading cause of problems needing medical treatment.
- Basketball accounted for more than 500,000 injuries, followed by football and other team sports, including baseball, soccer, and hockey.
- Biking, swimming, and even the use of beach, playground, and camping equipment made the list with tens or even hundreds of thousands of injuries in a year.
- Depending upon the type of activity, most injured people were either adults or teenagers, but even young children were vulnerable during such activities as playing on the playground, using trampolines, biking, and other sports.
While risk management for sports and fitness usually focuses on the potential for injuries, it’s also prudent to consider other kinds of risks. Personal equipment and other items may get damaged or stolen. Some participants may claim defamation or emotional or sexual abuse. Some fitness professionals may even get held liable for offering advice or providing treatment that was believed to cause harm.
Most people participate in sports and fitness activities because of their passion about the positive aspects of their vocation, job, or hobby. Still, it’s important to remain aware of common hazards and protect yourself and your organization against them. Your safety program, professional standards, and historically good reputation can help you avoid problems and may even reduce the cost of coverage, but you should not believe they will make you invulnerable to claims.
What Fitness and Sports Insurance Should Cover
Naturally, different types of sports organizations will have different concerns. Because of this, schools, exercise studios, fitness professionals, facilities, and professional or amateur teams can buy coverage tailored to their unique needs. Beyond that, policy details may vary by the insurance company or level of benefits chosen. To get an idea of benefits that sports insurance should provide to you and your organization, explore some of these most typical types of coverage.
Policies for Team and Club Sports and Events
The key portion of this coverage focuses on covering sports organizations against liability. These are some questions to ask as you review your options:
- Where are you covered? You should include coverage for practices, try-outs, games, and travel. Make certain that you’re covered in other cities and states if your team travels.
- When are you covered? You can also add protection for non-sport activities that you may host, such as fundraisers, award banquets, or team parties.
- Who is covered? The policy should protect the organization, venue, directors, supervisors, coaches, other players, and all involved parties against potential claims.
- What is covered? Typical covered claims would include injuries, property loss and damages, defamation, abuse, and more. Also, simply understanding the kinds of protection a typical policy contains can help you create safety training and standards for acceptable member behavior. Insurance companies typically provide risk reduction assistance.
- Is there additional coverage to consider? Consider adding in coverage for equipment damage, either when in use or stored. Check to see if the policy includes crime insurance in case of such problems as theft, vandalism, or even embezzlement. Make sure directors are covered against claims like wrongful termination, discrimination, and failure to follow bylaws.
- Who can make covered claims? Make sure you can extend benefits to players, coaches, administrators, attendees, and in some cases, bystanders. For instance, if a passerby, nearby window, or parked car gets hit by a stray ball, the victim might ask for compensation.
- How much coverage will you need? At a professional level, you might even need to insure pro salaries. Even at an amateur or school level, injured people might claim expenses for loss of income or college tuition. Parents of youth athletes could make claims for reimbursement for time they need to take off from their jobs to attend to their injured children.
As an example, youth football generally suggests having sports liability insurance of at least $100,000 per injury and $1,000,000 in total liability. Depending upon your situation, you might also consider buying an umbrella policy that can provide additional liability insurance over the base policy in increments of $1,000,000.
Sports Insurance for Fitness Professionals
Instructors, trainers, nutritionists, and other fitness professionals often work at health clubs and other facilities. They may believe they’re covered well enough by that facility’s policy, but you’d be prudent to make certain that’s true. If you’re an employee, you’re more likely to be protected by your employer; however, many fitness professionals work as independent contractors or lease space for their own business. If this is your situation, it’s more likely that you’re not covered.
Without coverage, you could be held liable for damages or injuries. One of your students could twist an ankle during class or claim that your dietary advice made them sick. Even if you didn’t cause the problem, you may have to pay a lawyer simply to defend yourself.
Of course, if you’re actually a registered professional, like a registered dietitian or chiropractor, you probably already know to buy professional liability insurance for your profession. Some insurers even tailor this kind of malpractice insurance for professionals in the fitness industry. If you coach or teach yoga, martial arts, or other kinds of exercises, you can purchase a type of personal liability insurance often called “fitness instructor coverage.”
These are some things to look for when you compare policies for fitness professionals:
- Find out if you’re covered for every venue you work at.
- What’s the policy limit? Typical limits range from about $500,000 up to a few million.
- Policies should protect you against claims of injuries and damages, other hazards, or even problems with your advertising.
- Policies for instructors of group classes may differ in some ways than those for one-on-one instructors, like personal trainers.
Examples of the kinds of liability that personal trainer or fitness instructor insurance can protect you from include customers claiming advice led to injuries or health problems, the program failed to fulfill advertised claims, you damaged personal or venue property, or even that your conduct was considered sexual or physical abuse or harassment.
Generally, this kind of individual policy only costs a few hundred dollars a year and can be well worth it if somebody claims you caused an injury or damage. For instance, Sports & Fitness Corporation instructor policies start with premiums of just $160 for one-on-one, full-time instructors. They offer potential discounts for group instructors and even lower rates for some part-time fitness professionals. They also allow you to add coverage for additional instructional facilities for only $25. Be certain to compare policies to ensure you’re paying competitive premiums for comprehensive protection.
Health Club and Fitness Studio Insurance
As noted by the number of injuries caused by exercise equipment and various sports, both nonprofit and for-profit health clubs and dance or exercise studios can also be vulnerable to liability claims by members and customers. This is true if you run a large gym chain or simply offer an exercise room or fitness classes within your church.
Naturally, businesses and other organizations may already have business or nonprofit insurance packages that contain general liability and property coverage. At the same time, these aren’t tailored to the unique risks you confront and may even exclude some of them. That’s why large health club chains tend to work with either specialty insurers or large companies that provide custom-tailored plans for fitness and sports clients.
A weight-lifting gym, martial arts or dance studio, and full-service health club are also likely to have very different needs, and specialty insurance usually offers coverage tailored to different sizes and kinds of for-profit and nonprofit facilities.
Find Fitness Insurance Providers That Can Help Assess Risks
These insurance partners can help assess your specific risks, and this isn’t a trivial benefit. For example, you may not think stationary bikes offer a lot of opportunities for harm. Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation is a specialty company that covers such well-known brands as Gold’s Gym and Curves. According to their data, most stationary-bike incidents that result in emergency room visits come from overexertion, but they may also come from misusing the equipment or broken bikes.
If you offer exercise bikes to your patrons, these are things you should tell your staff to look out for and provide warning signs or training material on. Obviously, other equipment may have different risks. Since many businesses and nonprofits regard their insurance companies and agencies as part of risk management, you should look for providers that will assist you in coming up with the rules, best practices, and other efforts that will help improve safety and may earn discounts. Your provider might also suggest taking out personal liability on employees or, at least, requiring contract or self-employed staff to provide proof that they have their own.A good insurer will not just pay claims. Through their experience with fitness and sports providers like you, they can help you avoid them in the first place. Click To Tweet
In other words, a good insurer will not just pay claims. Through their experience with fitness providers like you, they can help you avoid them in the first place. In turn, these best practices can keep you from suffering losses, improve your organization, and help protect your reputation.
Recreational Venue Insurance
Such fitness and recreational venues as bowling centers, team sports fields, mini-golf and laser tag entertainment centers, pools, skating rinks, and multi-sport complexes may also seek specialized fitness insurance. In addition to property insurance, these policies may provide general liability coverage, premises liability, personal injury liability, and in some cases, liquor liability.
Depending upon the type of venue and event, you can also buy supplemental coverage for specific activities. Some examples could include childcare and after-school activities, swimming pools, food service and/or liquor, short-term special events, and unsupervised clubs.
Two Sports Insurance Buying Mistakes to Avoid
John M. Sadler, Jr., the president of Sadler Sports and Recreation Insurance and an industry expert on risk management, offered some good general advice about common mistakes made when buying sports insurance. Some of these tips may or may not apply, depending upon your situation. Still, it’s worth it to summarize his advice within these two general cautions about common errors made when purchasing sports insurance:
1. Neglecting Certain Kinds of Policies
Typical sports organizations may need at least five kinds of coverage. These include accident, general liability, directors and officers, criminal acts, and equipment. Coverage should include everybody involved, including executives and officers, employees, volunteers, and spectators.
Your organization may also need other kinds of coverage, including car, property, and workers’ compensation. You should consider working with an experienced insurance company or agent to complete a risk assessment, but you can start with this coverage checklist.
2. Believing You Don’t Need Coverage
Your safety program, waivers, and excellent history won’t protect you against lawsuits. Even local laws that may provide immunity in certain cases won’t always stop people from filing lawsuits, and you could have to spend a lot of money proving that you’re compliant.
Also, you might believe that most people have health insurance to cover medical treatment. However, injured people can still request compensation for out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and time off from work. Again, it’s important not to underestimate the risk and expense of claims.
Do You Need Sports Insurance if Participants Have Health Insurance?
Many teams, fitness clubs, and other venues require proof of health insurance. They may also even provide this benefit for their employees. Injured parties may still want compensation for such out-of-pocket costs as deductibles, coinsurance, and time lost from their jobs. Besides, health insurance won’t cover damaged equipment or harassment and false advertising claims. Also, you can’t assume that everybody has kept their policy current.
Sports Insurance Providers
In the United States, states mostly regulate insurance companies. Also, plans and prices can vary by state or even by zip code. You can find some good, nationwide sports insurance providers; however, you may want to consider a high-quality regional company that is familiar with similar organizations in your area. This section isn’t intended to recommend one insurance company or agency over another but to familiarize you with a selection of major players in the sports insurance industry.
Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation
Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation, or SFIC, has focused on insuring health and fitness businesses since 1985. With its headquarters in Madison, Mississippi, the insurance company offers policies in every state. They currently cover 14,000 fitness centers and instructors. Curves for Women, the world’s largest fitness franchise, endorses them. Besides Curves, they also have endorsements from Gold’s Gym, Anytime Fitness, Authentic Pilates Union, and several more major brands.
SFIC offers specialty insurance for individual fitness professionals and gyms, fitness studios, group instructors, personal trainers, sports and recreational facilities, and dance and martial arts schools. They also offer a simple, online application for some kinds of coverage.
Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance
Sadler has specialized in sports and recreation insurance since 1957 and has operations in every state. They presently cover more than 15,000 local and 30 national organizations. The company has designed custom injury information collection that has helped prevent and reduced injuries. John M. Sadler, Jr., the founder’s son and current president, has also served on the USA Baseball Medical and Safety Advisory Committee and has contributed to authoritative sports insurance textbooks.
The company prides itself on its risk management assistance for clients, affordable premiums, comprehensive coverage, speed of service and claims processing, and more. Some examples of current endorsements include the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the National Field Archery Association, and the American Football League. Sadler covers individual instructors, associations, leagues and teams, tournaments and sports camps, schools, sports and recreational facilities, special events, fitness clubs and studios, entertainment venues, and outdoor activities.
This division of Markel Insurance, located in Richmond, Virginia, has offered various kinds of specialty insurance nationwide for more than 70 years. The company offers risk management services, in addition to competitive insurance coverage. For example, clients get access to ClubSafety.com, a site that provides access to online training, signage, forms, and other safety materials.
Markel specializes in providing solutions for health clubs, spas, various types of fitness and dance studios, key clubs, and franchises. They can also insure various on-site activities, like rock climbing, entertainment, food service, and affiliated fitness professionals, such as instructors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and nutritionists.
Trusted Choice is not an insurance company but an independent network of insurance agents and agencies. You can buy coverage directly from insurers, but you don’t pay more if you use an agent. In fact, you may find that a qualified, local agent can help you save time by learning about your requirements, exploring your local market, and presenting you with options from different companies. In addition, some businesses and organizations prefer to develop relationships with local professionals to find the coverage they need.
On the other hand, some local agents are better generalists than specialists. You should find out if the local agent has experience with this kind of specialty insurance. Obviously, you will want to rely upon an agent as a consultant, and you can’t be certain that all agents have the depth of experience with your industry to serve you well. If you use agents, you’re still free to consult with the insurer for a risk assessment and an in-depth exploration of their policy benefits. Good agents should also advocate for you when you do need to make claims.
A local Trusted Choice agent may help personal trainers, sports teams, gyms, spas, and many other kinds of fitness business, professionals, and organizations find all kinds of coverage. They can also help you with other kinds of insurance you may need.
What to Remember When Buying Sports Insurance
The right sports insurance can leave you free to enjoy all the positive aspects of your business or team, knowing that an accident or mistake won’t empty your wallet. Plus, you’ll have an experienced partner on your side to help you defend yourself against lawsuits and improve safety. Good coverage can also give you a competitive advantage when you’re recruiting the best employees, talent, and partners.
You may feel a lot more passionate about sports than you do about insurance topics. Still, it’s worth it to take the time to understand how much one property or injury claim could harm your livelihood. Take the time to work with insurance professionals to assess and minimize risks and compare available sports insurance alternatives.