SWIMMING POOL ACCIDENTS AND DROWNING
Spending a relaxing day at a pool in someone’s backyard, at a private pool club or a municipal pool owned by either a federal, state or local municipality is an enjoyable activity for many families and friends. Various accidents in and around pools can cause injury or death, such as diving in shallow water, slipping on the pool deck and/or ingesting hazardous pool chemicals. Death by drowning is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. In the United States, only auto accidents cause more deaths to children under 5 years of age than drowning. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 500 children under 5 years of age drown in swimming pools every year, and about another 3,000 children under 5 years of age are treated annually at hospitals for near-drownings.
For those children who survive a drowning accident, 5%-20% will have permanent and life-altering neurological damage since hypoxia (brain damage) generally occurs after having been submerged for only four minutes.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries due to any type of swimming pool accident or someone close to you has died as a result of drowning in a swimming pool, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. for a free initial consultation regarding your legal rights in order to obtain full and fair compensation and damages due to your harms and losses.
Common Causes of Pool Accidents
- Failure to have non-slip surfacing at and around the pool and other areas
- Failure to have a lifeguard present
- Negligence committed by any lifeguard on duty
- Failure to properly supervise employees working at and around a pool, including maintenance staff
- Hotel negligence
- Water park negligence
- County pool negligence
- Resort negligence
The Question of Liability
There are three legal theories that account for liability in the vast majority of swimming pool accident and drowning cases:
- Premises Liability
Premises liability can be understood as a body of law that deems the property owner liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on the property which the property owner was either aware of or should have been aware of. Please visit our separate website page entitled PREMISES/PROPERTY ACCIDENTS for a thorough discussion regarding premises/property liability. The owner of a swimming pool has a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining safety for those who use it as well as others on the property. If the swimming pool owner fails to perform that duty and this failure causes an injury, he or she is negligent. Premises liability in swimming pool accidents and drownings may apply to:
- Owners of residential or private pools
- Owners of property containing commercial or private pools that are used for the purposes of guests or tenants (hotel owners, apartment complex owners, health club owners, etc.)
- Governments that own municipal swimming pools open to the community or school swimming pools
- Renters of property containing swimming pools
Some common causes that result in pool accidents and pool drowning accidents creating premises liability include:
- Negligent supervision: The owner of private commercial property, municipal, residential home or other property containing a pool open to guests has the responsibility in ensuring the guests’ safety, and may prove to be liable in the event of a pool accident or drowning if there is no lifeguard supervision. If guests are not supervised, especially when the owners have knowledge of the presence of children, those owners may face liability in the event of any drowning or any other accident in and around the pool.
- Lack of maintenance: If a pool or its safety equipment is not properly maintained in a reasonably safe condition or routinely inspected, the property owner may be liable in the case of injuries or drowning. For example, if a property owner does not take proper care in cleaning the pool before use, he or she may be liable if someone drowns as a result of the inability to see under murky water or as a result of slippery pool surfaces that create a dangerous condition giving rise to unsafe footing or other dangers.
- Lack of fencing: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission states that pool drownings are 60% more likely to occur at in-ground pools that lack complete fencing than at in-ground pools that have complete fencing. With this statistic in mind, in the event of a swimming pool drowning where it can be proven that a reasonable person would have installed a fence, the pool owner may be liable for the accident.
- Lack of or hidden warning signs: Common warning signs you may see at various swimming pools such as “no running”, “swim at your own risk” (if there is no lifeguard present) and indicators of pool depth that show where it is acceptable to dive are important features of pool safety. A pool owner is not practicing reasonable care when he or she fails to use warning signs that have the purpose of preventing potential harm to others, and may be liable in the event of any accident in or around the pool, including a pool drowning. Even if the warning signs are present but hidden or unreadable, the pool owner still may be liable.
Negligence is defined as the failure to act as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances, and it is another cause of liability for owners of swimming pools where accidents in and around the pool, including drowning accidents, have occurred. Although the pool owner’s liability is created by his or her negligence in failing to utilize proper safety precautions, parties other than the pool owner (equipment manufacturers, pool-staff employers, lifeguards, etc.) can be held liable for a pool accident involving injuries or drowning if they are found to have been negligent.
Strict liability, otherwise known as negligence per se, is another legal theory which creates liability for those who, if involved in an accident such as a pool drowning, break the law and therefore have acted negligently. New York has laws specifically designed for drowning prevention, such as regulations for suction outlets and entrapment prevention and requirements for complete fencing and locked gates for all residential outdoor pools.
- Products Liability
A form of strict liability, products liability is not dependent upon someone’s negligent actions (or inactions). Manufacturers and sellers of defective equipment may be held liable if that defective equipment is in any way responsible for an accident. In the case of a defective swimming pool or defective equipment, potential responsible parties include the pool or pool component manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer that sold the customer the pool or equipment and whoever installed them.
In attempting to prove products liability, the defects must be shown to exist as well as whether those defects created unreasonable hazards for its intended purpose. Defects are classified into three categories: design defects, manufacturing defects and marketing defects (such as insufficient safety warnings). If any of these defects are present in a swimming pool or in other related equipment or products, such as water slides, and someone is injured or drowns as a result or a product defect, all of the parties mentioned above can be held liable.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU
Ira Perlman and Robert Rosen have over 30 years of experience in winning their clients full and complete monetary compensation for their harms and losses as well as the respect and dignity they so justly deserve. Mr. Perlman is a tenacious and seasoned trial attorney who has been successfully trying his clients’ cases as well as cases referred to the office from other attorneys for over 30 years. Mr. Rosen, with his adept litigation and writing skills has navigated clients’ lawsuits inside and outside the courthouse in order to achieve the excellent results that generate their ongoing success. The Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. are prepared to expend all of the necessary resources, financial or otherwise, in order to investigate and prosecute your case including retaining all necessary medical and/or technical experts in the relevant areas and fields and taking your case to verdict at trial if the insurance companies who represent the wrongdoers do not want to fully and fairly compensate you and your loved ones. If you, a family member or a loved one has become a victim due to an accident, malpractice or a serious injury and you would like to achieve optimum results relating to your claims, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. at 212-689-5000 for help now including a free initial consultation.