How coaches get sued...did you know that you open yourself up to legal liability every time you bring on a client? The threat of a lawsuit is real, and I say this so that you will PROTECT YOURSELF & YOUR BUSINESS.
There’s a list of life, business, health coaches that have all been sued over the past decade and that will only continue to grow as the coaching industry itself continues to grow.
So how does this happen?
Well for one, coaching is an unregulated industry - that means anyone can do it, without a license, without certification, and without training. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that - many of the amazing coaches I know bring ONLY their life experience and they are phenomenal coaches. But that also means they may not have the business training to know what is needed to protect their coaching business.
So how can coaches get sued?
- For getting into a dispute with a client and not having a contract. Without a contract there are no guidelines, there is nothing to reference, there are no boundaries. So when something goes wrong, it could go really wrong and the coach and client can easily end up in court.
- For breach of contract - part of coaching is managing your client’s expectations. If you aren’t clear about the outcome and all of sudden there is a misunderstanding or the contract wasn’t clear on what may be expected, the result could be a breach of contract issue. Your client feels they didn’t get what they paid for. You feel that you delivered. Sometimes this dispute escalates and leads to a lawsuit.
- For tort (negligence, fraud, misrepresentation, emotional distress) - coaching, especially life, wellness, relationship, and even business coaching can be extremely personal. There are lots of opportunities where a coach could misstep and start to blur lines. This can happen especially if a coach is offering advice that borders on therapy, medical, financial, or legal advice → hello this is why disclaimers are so damn important.
By coaching, you are opening yourself up to legal liability that could land you in hot water, land you in court, and land you with a six-figure bill.
So how to keep yourself out of hot water? Don’t give advice that only a therapist, doctor, accountant, or lawyer can give. As a coach, you love to help people. And you are DAMN good at it. But you also have to be careful.
Misrepresentation is a leading cause of coach lawsuits. There are instances where a life coach told someone they have bi-polar disorder, or where a business coach let a client borrow a contract.
These are considered acts outside of a coaching relationship and can lead to the coach being sued for misrepresentation for negligence.
So how can you as a coach do your best work AND protect yourself at the same time?
✔️ Always use a contract that YOU own (not that you got off the internet or borrowed) and that clearly outlines what you are doing and what you are not doing
✔️ Make sure that contract has rock solid disclaimers that you are no giving medical, therapy, or other advice
✔️ DO NOT give your contract to clients or offer any type of legal advice on collecting payments, getting (or not getting) a trademark, or any other topic *you know* you aren’t qualified to answer on
✔️ Do not give any medical advice, therapy, or other type of professional advice, if you feel like you are bordering on crossing these lines - take a step back and refer your clients elsewhere.
You are a coach, that is your zone of genius, you are not expected to DO EVERYTHING for your client.
Sarah Kornblet Waldbuesser, Esq.
Attorney for Coaches & Online Business Owners
After several years at a law firm and a few career jumps, she ended up falling in love with online business and loves helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams in a smart and protected way. She is also an adventurer, traveler, and food and wine lover. When not at her computer, she loves hanging with her family, having wine with friends, flying around the globe and connecting with other online business owners.