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How to Discuss Student Injuries As A Yoga Teacher

Yoga teacher giving a hands on assist
Yoga teachers always have students approach them asking about injuries (whether caused outside of yoga or from their class specifically) and it can be tricky to navigate! In this article, we’ll be talking about a yoga teacher's liability when it comes to discussing injuries with their students, and what happens if a student claims that the teacher is responsible for their injuries.

How To Discuss Student Injuries + Yoga Liability Waiver Advice

Duty of Care

The area of law that student injuries fall under has to do with liability and suffering damages. But from a bigger perspective, it comes from a duty of care. 

Duty of care is a very important principle to understand because anytime you are facilitating an activity for another person, you have a duty to that person to ensure that they do not suffer damages or get hurt because of the services that you're providing and the expertise that you are using in working with them.

So, the big question is: How do we mitigate our risk as best as possible? And how do we communicate openly and honestly to have good relationships with our clients and students but also keep ourselves safe?

Standard of Care

There’s something called a standard of care, which is the degree to which you have to take care of someone and how well you have to do something. For example, the standard of care for professionals providing a service would be higher than the standard of care for amateurs providing a service.

But the standard of care will always come back to what was reasonable and what would be expected of a person. In the context of a yoga teacher and a yoga student, the standard of care is that they're not going to get injured. And when someone has previously suffered an injury and the teacher is aware of that injury, the standard of care becomes higher.

Let’s take a look at an example.

A student has an injury, and they sign a waiver that says they affirm that they're healthy enough to participate in your services. They don’t bring the injury to your attention, then you do a back series or work on backbends… and they get injured.

The standard of care as a teacher would be lower because you were never informed of that injury. However, once we know of a preexisting injury, then the issue that we face is the student's going to say, “Well, I told you I had a back problem and you still put me through this sequence and now my back problem's way worse. So, you're responsible for that.” 

As a teacher, you have to be careful when clients are sharing information with you and telling you about previous injuries because it raises the standard of care for you as a professional. This is why it’s crucial that you have everything documented and in writing as much as possible to make sure that you have the legal support behind everything you do as a teacher.

Pre-existing Injuries and Ramifications

The first thing we want to highlight in this topic of injuries has to do with your clients letting you know about preexisting injuries and legally what the ramifications are. Ultimately what this means is you have a duty of care to these people.

There's a standard of care that is higher because they've told you that they have an injury, and it's your responsibility to address the injury, make sure they don’t get hurt and make sure that they are voluntarily participating if you know that they've gotten clearance from a medical professional to participate.

What happens if a student alleges that they suffered an injury in your class?

The first and most important thing to remember is that it's less about what happened and more about what you're able to prove.

Conscious Counsel's advice to any teacher that is dealing with someone who alleges something to them is to be very careful about what is said in writing and be especially careful about what is put in writing. You don't want to accept liability orally before you have any information. 

The truth is, there are so many different ways that the injury could have been caused from a liability standpoint, so if someone comes to you saying that they’re having problems now that weren’t there before, do not accept responsibility in writing or orally because it gives them leverage to make a complaint against you.

If you’re dealing with this situation, here are three simple things Conscious Counsel recommends doing:

  1. Ask questions and get everything in writing. Go on a fact-finding mission, ask more questions, understand a little bit about what happened, try to empathize with the situation.
  2. Do not directly accept responsibility in writing or orally. We don't know if it was you. Unless it's something obvious where someone's doing a headstand and then falls on an object in the room and gets injured, then that’s a little bit of a different story.
  3. Be supportive and loving. Above all else.

What Is Safe To Do?

What is safe to do is support your client to get more information, to understand everything, and make sure that you have an excellent, customized yoga liability waiver that’s specifically drafted to your practice and what you're doing. You want to avoid fueling the fire for someone to have a claim against you.

Conscious Counsel empathizes with this situation you must fact find, be supportive, and be loving while not accepting responsibility. Again, if it's blatant that they got injured in your class and everyone saw it happen, that's when you're going to rely on the waiver of liability and maybe other students in the class.

The Bottom Line

As a teacher, it's important to acknowledge that it’s your responsibility to keep your students safe. And that's why you want your documents to be specific to your business to ensure that legally you're covered.

If you want to know the legal essentials you need to stay aligned with the law, download the FREE legal essentials workbook.

For the best coverage, invest in the safety net that is yoga liability insurance. Yoga liability insurance has your back should something happen–actually or allegedly. With liability insurance, you won't just have coverage; you'll have peace of mind–all things that help you do your job better. 

Cory Sterling
Cory Sterling
Cory Sterling, the founding lawyer of Conscious Counsel has made it his mission to make law fun. His company is based in Canada but serves over 10+ countries specifically working in liability lawsuits for wellness professionals such as yoga teachers, massage therapists, and fitness instructors.