How to Protect Yourself Legally as a Health Professional

How to Protect Yourself Legally as a Health Professional

When it comes to building a legitimate, legally protected business, there is a lot to know. Most of the information found online isn’t straight forward because there are many factors like what you do, where you live and where your clients live.

To help debunk the many myths and check all of your legal boxes, we chatted with Legal Coach® and Attorney, Lisa Fraley. Lisa’s mission is to help health and wellness practitioners, coaches and fitness professionals understand that the law can be accessible, empowering, loving and not scary.

We asked Lisa to share some tips on how to protect yourself legally as a health professional. Here's what she had to say:

Tip #1: Have a Client Agreement and Terms of Use in Place

According to Lisa, protecting your income should be one of your first legal moves.

“Your best legal step is to protect your income. Your income is your most important asset (other than you!) to support and grow your business. Without it, you don't have money to pay your rent or mortgage, your groceries, or your electricity...and that isn't a good feeling.”

The first way to protect your income is by having a Client Agreement in place.

“Your Client Agreement is your written contract with your 1-on-1 client that spells out all of your client policies in one place. It’s a document that you sign and your client signs saying that you both agree to all of the terms laid out for your relationship. There are lots of important sections in Client Agreements so when it comes to written legal terms, longer is better. When you have a short, skimpy contract, it’s too easy for things not to be spelled out enough and to have a lot of ambiguity which is what creates confusion and conflicts. A solid Client Agreement should be 4-5 pages long.”

According to Lisa, there are five key things to include in your Client Agreements:

  1. How payments work.
  2. A description of the program.
  3. A Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability
  4. A Termination clause.
  5. Confidentiality and Privacy language.

If you offer an online course or a group program, it is important for you to have participants agree to Terms of Use.

"If you have an online course or group program, you’ll want to use what I call 'Terms of Use' which are the sales terms that your participants agree to when they're purchasing your program.”

Having Client Agreements and Terms of Use in place will help you operate your business with certainty. These legally binding documents will give you legal language to fall back on if a client comes to you asking for a refund for a service you've provided them. They are integral to protecting your income.

Tip #2: Register Your Business

Knowing when to take your side-hustle into a full-fledged business and exactly how to register it can be overwhelming. There is no simple answer as it depends on a variety of factors. This is why speaking to an attorney is so important.

“What you need to do for business registration is based on where you live, where your business is based, and the specific kind of business you have. There’s a strong chance that you’ll need to file forms at the local, possibly county and possibly state government levels - no matter what kind of business you own. It's always recommended to talk with an attorney who understands your business so you follow the right steps for your specific business situation.

If speaking to an attorney seems like too much right now, it’s important to remind yourself that it will only help set you up for success and eliminate any legal anxiety in the future. It will also help you feel confident in operating your business as a health professional.

“Part of the 'fraud factor' — feeling like a fraud in your business — happens when you don’t show up as a powerful and responsible leader of your business. It’s easy to feel insecure in the business world if you haven’t set yourself up correctly as an operating business, whether you’re running your business from rented office space or from your kitchen table.”

Lisa suggests connecting with an attorney to register your business sooner rather than later. As soon as there is an exchange of money for services, you should be taking steps to register your business.

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Tip #3: Protect Your Website with a Disclaimer, Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy

Your website is an important piece of your business. It is a reflection of what you are creating and what your business represents. The content on your website is valuable and it is your intellectual property.

“There are 3 legal documents you want on your website. To protect your website, you want to have a Website Disclaimer, Website Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

  1. Your Website Disclaimer is your base layer of legal protection for your website that disclaims your liability for the information on your site. That’s why it’s called a Website Disclaimer. The Website Disclaimer is basically about you, your role, and the type of work that you do.

  2. Your Website Terms & Conditions is the legal document that safeguards your website copy – the actual words and images on your site. As you increase your website content, you need to increase your website’s legal protection to keep your content safe so you don’t leave your website content vulnerable to cunning copycats and scheming swipers without any legal language to fall back on.

  3. Your Privacy Policy is the written policy that protects the confidentiality of the information that your website visitors give to you. In some US states and other countries like the European Union, you are required by law to have a Privacy Policy to protect people who sign up for your e-newsletter, products or free gifts as a part of your tribe."

If you’re not sure where to begin with any of these three items, it’s best to speak with an attorney who is familiar with your area of practice and will help you draft these legal documents.

Tip #4: Understand and Work Within Your Scope of Practice

Traditionally, the school you studied at is a great resource to understand what you can and cannot do with your designation. However, with the increase of online designations and differing rules between countries and states, it can be a bit confusing.

“It's important to not practice medicine or dietetics without a license - or be perceived as practicing medicine or dietetics without a license - so understanding your state laws is critical. It's also important not to make medical claims or disease claims as a health coach or wellness coach.”

The moral of the legal story? If you’re ever confused about where to begin, the best place to start is with an attorney who is knowledgeable in your field. Working with an attorney is the best way to protect yourself and operate your business like the strong and confident health professional you are!

Want to learn more about protecting yourself legally? Check out Lisa's Legally Enlightened Podcast.

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