Just as we all need a balanced diet with the right nutrients to fuel your body, your business needs a solid legal foundation to thrive.
Without it, you are leaving yourself open to all sorts of legal troubles and headaches down the road. Nobody wants to open their door to a process server handing you a big envelope with your name on it … and hear those INFAMOUS words “YOU’VE BEEN SERVED.”
Truth time…your health/nutrition/fitness coaching business has more liability than say a business or career coach.
Some of the lawsuits against health and nutrition coaches have involved allegations of negligence, misrepresentation, or fraudulent practices. For example, a health coach may have provided advice that caused harm to a client, or they may have made false claims about their qualifications or the effectiveness of their services. (PS - DON’T DO THIS).
HAVING A SOLID CONTRACT IN PLACE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING LEGALLY TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS!
This really is the building block to start with. Just like a running coach wouldn’t advise a client to start hardcore marathon training before they can even run a mile, you’re risking a lot if you are taking on clients without a contract and in both cases the results can be disastrous!
Ok WHY? What are some of the “legal issues” that health and nutrition coaching businesses might face?
Well, the main one is liability.
Working in the health space you automatically have an increase in liability because of the issues you are helping your clients deal with:
- mental health
Of course we all know NOT to give medical advice and NOT to make diagnoses. Your contract needs to make that clear as well because your contract is what protects you should your client become mentally or physically injured from working with you.
There was a case where a health coach recommended a high dose of the hormone DHEA to a client based on the results of that client’s saliva hormone test (read more about it here, from Chris Kresser). What the coach didn’t recognize is that a high dose of DHEA could exacerbate his client’s pre-existing hyperthyroid condition. And so after taking the DHEA, the client experienced tachycardia, palpitations, high blood pressure, and elevated body temperature and had to be taken to the emergency room.
The client hired an attorney and sued NOT ONLY the health coach but also the program that trained the coach to interpret the lab results and recommend treatment based on them.
Lawsuits can pop up for anything from a broken toe because they weren’t doing an exercise properly, to an allergic reaction from that smoothie you suggest, to a heart attack during a training run, to not getting pregnant and blaming you.
There are a lot scenarios in which YOU could be on the hook for damages, here's a big “ripped from the headlines” example: In 2018, a health coach in Florida was charged with practicing medicine without a license. The coach had been providing clients with intravenous nutrient therapy, which is a medical procedure that requires a license to perform. The health coach claimed that the therapy was safe and effective, but the state of Florida argued that the coach was putting clients at risk by practicing medicine without proper training and licensure.
An effective and solid contract for a health/nutrition coach will stipulate that you are NOT a licensed professional AND NOT diagnosing a disease. What the above coaches clearly did not have was a proper arbitration clause and for starters that would have kept them OUT of court.
If you are a health coach and reading this is making you sweat, head over HERE now to grab your Health Coaching Contract!