Why Liability Insurance?
Protect yourself as you do your students.
It’s time for yoga teachers to adopt some of the legal protections that other health professionals already use. Here’s how to understand the benefits of liability insurance and how in can be used in conjunction with other teaching tools to give you the peace of mind you deserve.
Although there have been few reported lawsuits stemming from injuries in a yoga class, there have been some claims which make the threat of liability small but nonetheless real. Still, liability concerns need not dominate, instead lets take this opportunity to reflect thoughtfully on how to balance appropriate legal protection with the ethical and spiritual commitments yoga embodies.
Here are some practical suggestions for reducing potential liability exposure while maintaining a safe and respectful studio environment.
1. Obtain insurance.
This is the most important piece of protection a yoga teacher can have. Liability insurance protects yoga instructors against damages incurred or legal actions brought about by claimants as a result of the instructor's teaching duties.
Common reasons for litigation against instructors include:
- Muscle injuries
- Joint injuries
- Back injuries
- Broken bones
- Bruised bones
Liability insurance policies will cover the common causes or hazards that can occur during training and result in the losses mentioned above.
Common claims include:
- Injury as a result of poor supervision
- Injury as a result of poor training technique and education
- Injury as a result of overtraining
- Injury as a result of lack of adequate stretching or cool down periods
2. Ask about injuries.
Teachers should ask students about injuries and conditions before beginning class and then caution their students accordingly. Failure to watch for contraindications (such as yoga students with neck injuries doing headstand) can signal negligence.
3. Mind students' limitations.
Teachers should be mindful of students' pace and limitations so as not to create unnecessary injuries, discomfort, or an experience of invasion. Such mindfulness takes account of the classic legal definition of professional malpractice or negligence, which is failure to follow professional standards of care (or "due care;" "reasonable care under the circumstances"), thereby injuring the patient. Yoga teachers are legally, as well as ethically and professionally, obligated to take due care in their teaching and any adjustments.
4. Communicate mindfully.
Many malpractice lawsuits stem from an injury and the perception of negligence, which can be exacerbated by frustration and anger around the provider's failure to adequately communicate with a concerned client. In other words, miscommunication between providers and patients accounts for many malpractice filings, and attention to communication and perception comprise a liability management strategy in any therapeutic practice. The physical and psychological intimacy of a yoga class suggests a need for particular vigilance around students' moment-to-moment receptivity to changing levels of contact, both physical and energetic, from the instructor.
In short, in addition to maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards, yoga studios and teachers can feel confident in their teaching with the knowledge that their insurance policy is keeping them protected in their teaching.