Insurance Choices

The U.S. has a reputation for its sue-happy citizens. Risk-management strategies, liability waivers and extensive employee training are all implemented by nervous operators. But, short of requiring members to wear knee pads, elbow pads and helmets to protect themselves from injury - and your facility from lawsuits - the risk never goes away. Owners and managers can do one of two things: stock up on antacids, or enlist the services of a reputable insurance company.

How insurance protects your business

"Insurance protects fitness facilities from a variety of losses, depending on the coverage purchased," says Lou Valentic, chief marketing officer at K&K Insurance Group Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind. "Fitness facilities should always consult with a licensed insurance professional to discuss all options available for ... individual facility's needs." There are several insurance options available. General liability insurance. General liability insurance covers allegations of negligence that result in bodily injury, property damage or personal injury, as well as the cost to defend or settle claims. Property insurance. Property insurance generally covers the building, property owned by the insured and the personal property of others, as specified by the policy. Worker's compensation insurance. Worker's compensation insurance provides medical and disability coverage for on-the-job injuries to employees, and is often required by state statute. Business income insurance. Business income insurance covers lost profits and ongoing expenses during a business shutdown caused by a covered property loss. Additional coverages include commercial automobile, crime and excess liability.

What to look for

"The most important quality to look for in an insurance company is its ability to pay claims, so be sure to ask about the financial stability of any insurance company you consider," says Valentic. A.M. Best Company, Standard & Poor's and other independent rating organizations can provide this information. "We would also advise that facilities choose an insurance company familiar with fitness facility coverage, and whose underwriters understand the coverage issues unique to the health and fitness industry," Valentic adds.

Dealing with lawsuits

If your facility is sued, the insurance company you choose will have procedures in place to investigate the claim, depending on the situation. "An onsite inspection may be needed, medical charts may be requested from treating physicians in the event of bodily injury, witnesses may be interviewed, or any number of other means of verifying the situation surrounding the claim could be implemented," explains Valentic. "Ultimately, a decision is made in each situation as to whether the claim should be settled, or if defense at trial is the better course." Choose your facility's insurance company wisely. Be sure it has experience with other fitness facility accounts and understands the issues inherent in the industry. "Losses from claims affect each facility's ability to purchase affordable insurance coverage in the future," says Valentic. "Choosing an insurance company with experience in fitness claims management can make a difference."

Purchasing Guide

Andrea Pugliese Insurance Services 800 664-5489; Andrea Pugliese Insurance Services, Warrington, Pa., is a full-service agency that specializes in meeting the insurance needs of the health club industry. It has provided club owners with comprehensive coverage at competitive rates since 1984. The agency offers its years of experience and knowledge with a personal touch. Association Insurance Group 800 985-2021; Association Insurance Group, Lakewood, Colo., has provided insurance and risk-management products for the health club industry since 1995. Its staff members are known for their customer service and educational support for thousands of health club owners nationwide. President Ken Reinig is a nationally known speaker and recognized as an authority on litigation prevention in the industry. He has written numerous articles for various industry trade magazines, but most people know him as the "singing insurance guy." K&K Insurance Group Inc. 866 554-4636; K&K Insurance Group Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., provides a wide array of products to all segments of the health club industry. It recently announced a new insurance program designed specifically for smaller clubs and circuit training studios. In addition to K&K's standard program, which provides coverages for full-service health clubs, the new program offers premises and operations liability for facilities with annual receipts that are less than $500,000. An additional program has been designed specifically for circuit training studios with less than 3,000 square feet of leased or owned space. National Health Club Association (NHCA) 800 765-6422; The National Health Club Association (NHCA), Highlands Ranch, Colo., has served as fitness industry insurance specialists since 1990. It specializes in women-only, men-only and coed circuit facilities. From A-rated or better insurance carriers, NHCA offers commercial general liability, commercial property and surety bonds. It also provides professional liability insurance for certified fitness instructors, and offers a Fitness Professional Trainer Certification program. Sports & Fitness Insurance Corp. 800 844-0536; Founded in 1985, Sports and Fitness Insurance Corp., Madison, Miss., focuses solely on the fitness industry. It is a customer-focused program administrator that meets insurance needs, worldwide, for fitness centers, racquet clubs, martial arts schools, personal trainers, dance schools and yoga instructors. Its staff has more than 35 years of combined experience in the fitness industry - from serving on President Bush's Fitness Council to owning and operating fitness centers to serving in management with equipment manufacturers. Its underwriting staff has more than 100 years of underwriting experience, mostly within the fitness industry. Sports & Fitness Insurance is licensed in all 50 states, and endorsed by numerous organizations, such as the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association and Curves For Women.
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