Has the Negligence of Another Caused You or Someone You Love to Suffer a Drowning or Near-Drowning?
For many years now, swimming and other water-based activities have become an increasingly popular option for those looking to have fun, get some exercise, or simply get a little reprieve from hot temperatures. However, this increased pool traffic has had an impact on the amount of water-based accidents, including drownings and near-drownings. Children aged 15 or younger are especially vulnerable to drowning accidents–according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 5 drowning victims is under the age of 14, and from 2015 to 2017, 67 percent of drowning incidents involved children younger than 4.
One of the reasons why water-related accidents are so scary is because they only take a few moments to develop, but the effects and injuries they can cause are substantial. A large number of drowning victims suffer serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), paralysis, cognitive disorders, and even death in severe cases. Unfortunately, property and business owners regularly try to downplay the severity of these incidents or spin them in such a way that deflects blame or liability. That is why it is crucial for injured swimmers and drowning victims to seek quality legal representation right away, so that all pertinent evidence is preserved. Contact the trusted team of swimming pool drowning attorneys from Van Law Firm right away to get started on the path to restitution.
Common Factors That May Cause Drownings or Other Pool-Related Accidents
We’ve helped numerous drowning and pool accident victims and their families over the years, and during that time we’ve learned a few things about potential accident risks. Here are just a few of the most frequent causes of swimming pool accidents:
- Lack of proper pool coverings or barriers: It’s no secret that uncovered or unmonitored pools and spas pose an inherent threat to any children or weak swimmers. Therefore, home and business owners are legally obligated to ensure that their swimming areas are properly protected, covered, or barricaded when not in use. Many states around the country enforce laws regarding “attractive nuisances”–in other words, if a child injures themselves because something alluring or dangerous was left accessible to them (open pools, guns, power tools, etc.), the homeowner is held liable for any injuries or damages, even if the child acted without permission.
- Poor visibility or bad lighting surrounding the swimming area: It is crucial for all swimmers to have full visibility of their surroundings, both inside and around the swimming area. Not only that, but anyone supervising or attending to swimmers also needs to be able to see in order to help prevent a potential accident or stop one as it’s happening.
- Inadequate safety equipment, or lack thereof: Every pool, both private and public, is expected to have at least basic safety equipment on hand. This includes both free-floating and built-in features; free-floating features include life preservers and extended poles to potentially retrieve ailing swimmers, and built-in measures include guard rails, ladders, and drain covers.
- Wet or slippery surfaces: Most of us associate lifeguards with constant reminders not to run when near the pool–this is because slippery surfaces can pose a huge threat to those inside and outside the swimming area. It is extremely common for drownings and other pool-related accidents to arise after someone has slipped and fallen into the pool, or when a swimmer is trying to exit the pool and accidentally tumbles back into the water.
- Untrained safety staff or lack thereof: With regards to public pools, lifeguards are often the main safety measure at any given time. As such, all property owners are expected to hire, train, and maintain the right amount of safety staff to reasonably monitor the swimming area. Any accident that occurs because of untrained or absent lifeguards will almost surely be attributed to the property owner or lifeguard staffing company.
Public vs. Private Pools and the Differences in Liability Between the Two
Whenever patrons pay to enter a business with the expectation of swimming–be it a pool, water park or hotel–they are legally considered to be “invitees,” and so business and property owners are expected to provide and maintain a safe environment. This means that property owners are obligated to:
- Regularly inspect the pool and swimming area
- Locate hazards and remedy them as quickly as possible
- Properly inform patrons about potential hazards and notify them about those being fixed
- Ensure that all systems and equipment are being operated properly and in accordance with safety regulations
- Hire and schedule the appropriate number of security and safety personnel
- Conduct training exercises and develop emergency procedures
- Acquire any resources necessary to fulfill the obligations above
As mentioned previously, the most important safety measure for public pools is a well-trained and well-equipped safety staff, to the point where there are explicit requirements owners must adhere to. For instance, if the surface area of a pool exceeds 2,000 square feet, or if unsupervised children under 14 are permitted to enter the swimming area, there must be at least one guard on call at all times. Additionally, if the pool is at 80 percent of its capacity or higher, at least one guard must be physically present at all times. For hotel pools and other high-traffic properties, guards must be rotated so that no guard is on watch for more than an hour at a time.
However, property owners are certainly not absolved from fault simply because lifeguards were present at the time of accident. Any hindrance or delay in their ability to reach ailing swimmers can be deadly, so guards must always be in a position to follow the “10/20 rule,” which means that hazards should be identified within 10 seconds and reached within another 20 seconds after that. Guard towers and stands must be tall enough to see the entire perimeter of the pool as well as the bottom. Anything that prevents proper reaction, such as a poorly designed pool area, will likely make the property owner liable for damages.
Public facilities must also keep the following safety equipment on site:
- Personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and first aid
- A flotation device that is Coast Guard approved
- A gurney or spinal board for head and neck injuries
- At least one pole 12 to 16 feet in length to help retrieve swimmers
While property owners certainly have a lot of safety-related obligations, that doesn’t mean that they are always liable for drownings and swimming pool accidents. Other possible defendants include lifeguard staffing companies, equipment manufacturers, maintenance companies, or insurers. The good news is that all public pools and venues have security cameras, and the surveillance footage can be crucial evidence with regards to determining the liable party. Always remember, however, that this footage doesn’t last long and you will need the help of a swimming pool drowning attorney to preserve all evidence.
In the event that a homeowner invites guests to a private residence with the explicit or implicit intention of swimming, that also constitutes a certain duty of care. While that duty may not be as strict as it is for businesses, homeowners are still expected to maintain a safe environment and fully notify all guests of all existing or potential hazards (slippery floors, shaky guard rails, etc.).
In a certain sense, proper safety measures are more important for private homeowners than they are for public venues, in the sense that “attractive nuisance” scenarios are much more likely to occur at private residences. As mentioned above, these policies hold homeowners accountable for accidents in which children are able to access something they should not and subsequently injure themselves, even if it was done without permission. If an injured swimmer or drowning victim files suit against a homeowner who is insured, that insurer will handle most of the case. However, if the victim’s damages are such that they extend past the policy limits, they may turn around and sue the homeowner directly to make up the difference.
Connect With Experienced Swimming Pool Drowning Attorneys Today
If the negligence of others has caused a drowning or other swimming pool-related accident that resulted in injuries to you or someone you love, you will need to find quality legal representation as soon as possible. Thankfully, the award-winning swimming pool drowning attorneys from Van Law Firm are ready to help when you need it most. We can recover compensation from any and all liable parties, from homeowners to insurers and businesses. Call our location nearest you today for more information and a free consultation.