Athletic trainers provide a range of acute and chronic emergency care that  leave them vulnerable to potential liability issues. Like being sued for medical negligence by an unhappy patient.

So, it’s important to understand those legal liabilities and protect yourself against them.

The 4 Ds of Medical Negligence 

The four Ds of medical malpractice are:

DUTY: When an athletic trainer agrees to treat or provide medical services to an athlete who they or their legal guardian asks for treatment, that athletic trainer has a duty to provide care to that athlete.

DEVIATION: The patient must demonstrate that the athletic trainer didn’t follow—deviated—from accepted industry standards and best practices.

DIRECT CAUSE: If the plaintiff has proven both DUTY and DERELICTION, they must then show that the athletic trainer’s deviation directly caused the injuries and not some other intervening event.

DAMAGES: The patient must also prove they have suffered actual harm—physically, mentally or both—through medical records, prescriptions and/or testimony


What is a Tort? 

A tort is a legal wrong which one person or entity (the tortfeasor) commits against another person or entity and for which the usual remedy is an award of damages.

Here are the most common ‘legal wrongs’ an athletic trainer might face:


Nonfeasance is an act of omission. That means you had a duty to perform and didn’t do so. It’s incredibly common in concussion cases, especially where a patient mentioned a concussion symptom and the athletic trainer or healthcare provider failed to test diagnostically. 


Misfeasance means you performed a service you are legally allowed to provide, but you did it badly. For example, aggressively handling a c-spine injury in a way that causes injury.


Malfeasance is an act of commission. The athletic trainer or healthcare provider tried to perform a procedure that they were not trained to perform resulting in injury. An example would be an athletic trainer performing a tracheotomy on the back of a moving golf cart. 

These matters could be very subjective, or even claimed fraudulently. Innocent or guilty, lawyers are not cheap. This is why the Board of Certifications strongly recommends athletic trainers carry professional liability insurance to cover them against such claims. 

Is PLI through my employer sufficient?

No! In this instance, you are only covered while providing services for your primary employer.

In fact, there may be gaps in coverage even then.

For example, if an AT works at a secondary school/university, the policy may be worded to specify who the AT will be providing care for (student athletes). This could create a gap in coverage if health care services are provided to a spectator, coach, official, etc. For any per diem/volunteer work outside of your primary place of employment, separate professional liability insurance is needed.

PLI + General Liability Insurance through the Go4 App

If you need PLI, you can now get a PLI + General Liability insurance policy through the Go4 Insurance Agency on the Go4 App. To get a quote log on to the app, or get more info at:

About Go4

As an athletic trainer, per diem work could dramatically increase your yearly earnings. The Go4 platform connects licensed, certified athletic trainers with the jobs and shifts on their terms and schedule. 

We are a NATA preferred partner, so we fully understand the unique needs of athletic trainers and the athletic training profession.