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Pool Drowning Lawsuit

While swimming pools are wildly popular for children, pool drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related deaths of children. Whether in private, above-ground pools or public in-ground pools, swimming pool accidents usually occur when children are unsupervised. When a fatal drowning incident occurs, the property owner may be found negligent and possibly face a pool drowning lawsuit.


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Pools and Children--Statistics

Tragically, the following statistics regarding most swimming pool related accidents are preventable.

Pool drowning risksFor every fatal drowning incident involving a child 14 years old or younger, three children require emergency room treatment for submersion injuries and 40 percent of those require hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other words, for every drowning victim, another five children are treated for non-fatal submersion injuries. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that the annual death toll of children under the age of five who drown in pools is almost 300, with most occurring in home pools.

In California, swimming pool drowning is the leading cause of death (surpassing birth defects) to children ages 14 and under. Seventy percent of preschooler drowning victims are in the care of one or both parents at the time of drowning and 75 percent are missing from sight for five minutes or less.

Children can lose consciousness underwater in two minutes and brain damage (hypoxia) generally occurs after four minutes of submersion. For children that survive a near-drowning, 5 percent to 20 percent suffer severe and permanent neurological disabilities. Serious pool injuries often result in long-term disabilities, from memory loss and learning disabilities to the victim living in a vegetative state for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, many pool drownings could be prevented with proper warnings and adequate safety measures in place. Anyone who doesn’t know how to swim, particularly small children, could be at risk to drown in a pool that has easy access due to defective fences or gates. Inadequate lifeguard supervision is often the cause of a pool accident.

In 2012, three-year-old twin boys drowned in their backyard swimming pool. They crawled under the fence surrounding the pool through a gap on one side that was large enough for an adult to crawl under. The boys were submerged for about15 to 20 minutes, the coroner determined. Family members said the boys were just learning how to swim.

Regardless the type of pool, many factors can contribute to dangerous conditions, such as the pool design: the depth, slope or pitch, ledges and edges and overhangs for grasp are important. And safety equipment, from fences, pool barriers, signage and notification of lifeguards on duty, must be considered.

Above-Ground Pools

Many families who want an affordable and low-maintenance backyard swimming pool opt for an above-ground pool. But they can be extremely dangerous, and several accidents have resulted in wrongful death lawsuits.

Because they are literally above the ground, these pools can be difficult for people to access so most people add a ladder or small deck to the side of the pool. But when these additional structures become wet it is easy to slip and fall, which can result in a variety of injuries, from broken bones to drowning. Also, serious injuries have occurred when an above-ground pool has collapsed.

Some municipalities require a permit for above ground pools 18 inches or deeper; other municipalities have similar laws or ordinances. For instance, Cook County requires that the pool must be enclosed on all four sides by a 4-feet high non-climbable fence.

In-Ground Pools

Drownings can occur in public and private swimming pools, from backyard hot tubs to lap pools on a cruise ship. They can happen in recreational waterways such as lakes and ponds, water park pools, resorts and amusement parks.

In 2013 a six-year old boy drowned on the Carnival Victory cruise ship and in 2016 a two-year-old was hospitalized after nearly drowning on the Splendor, another Carnival cruise ship. Lack of supervision or the negligent behavior of a lifeguard can contribute to a drowning death and the operator of the pool or swimming hole may be liable for wrongful death.

A 15-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool at a hotel in Reading, PA. The lifeguard had her feet up on a desk and was reading when the tragedy occurred. An eight-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool at a summer camp. Although there were two lifeguards on duty, one was on a break and the other went to the bathroom at the time Anthony Slaughter drowned.

Lack of Maintenance

Negligence can occur due to lack of maintenance at a pool, spa or swimming hole. For instance, state laws now require those operating public or semi-public pools or spas to install drain covers designed to prevent drain suction in pools and many hot-tubs. If a drowning occurs in a pool that isn’t in compliance with the law, that violation can count as evidence against the pool operator in a wrongful death lawsuit.

If a property owner has only partially filled a pool, someone could strike their head on the bottom and drown. If the water gets murky and the bottom slippery from debris, a property owner could be liable for a drowning if someone under the water can’t be seen or it’s too slippery to get out.

Other common injuries associated with swimming pools are diving accidents that account for over ten percent of the approximately 10,000 spinal injuries suffered in the US each year. Almost 13,000 people suffer diving related injuries serious enough to require hospitalization annually, some caused by defective diving boards.

Here are some tips provided by Consumer Affairs that you should take to protect yourself:
  • Never allow anyone, child or adult, swimmer or non-swimmer, to enter the pool unless a responsible person is accompanying them.
  • Never leave an accessible pool unattended. Remember, a child can drown in less than 5 minutes.
  • Never leave swimming toys in the pool. They are too inviting for a young child.
  • Insist that your adult guests supervise their children at all times.
  • Never let intoxicated guests enter your pool.
  • Remove the diving board from your private backyard pool. The risk of injury is too great.
  • Keep essential life saving gear accessible, visible, and in proper working condition.
  • Never assume that "floaties" and other floatation devices will protect you or your guests from drowning.
  • Make sure your homeowner's insurance policy includes coverage that will protect you against liability lawsuits resulting from swimming pool injuries. You may want to add an additional liability policy specifically covering pool accidents. $1 million is the absolute minimum you should have; more is desirable.
  • Don't rely on posting signs such as "swim at your own risk," "too shallow to dive", etc., to protect you against a lawsuit. Anyone who is injured in your pool, even if they are trespassing, may have the legal right to file a claim against you for any damages resulting from injuries received while in your pool.

Pool Drowning Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered similar damages or injuries, please fill in our form and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.

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