Swimming is a popular pastime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s the fourth most popular recreational activity in the U.S. and the most popular activity for kids and teens between the ages of 7 and 17.
Though fun, swimming can be dangerous. Besides drowning, there are a number of injuries that can occur in and around swimming pools. Not only can injuries happen in public and private pools, but portable pools, wave pools, and water parks as well.
If you or a loved one was injured at a swimming pool, you may be able to file a lawsuit for compensation for your injuries and damages. Whether your injury occurred at a private pool or a public one, you should schedule a free consultation with the swimming pool accident attorneys at Heintz & Becker.
Common Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents
Most swimming pool accidents are the property owner or managers fault, especially when they fail to maintain their pool to the standards required by Florida law. In some cases, the swimmer or their parent or guardian may be at fault. As a swimmer, not putting yourself at risk will make it easier to prove the property owner or manager is at fault.
As attorneys, we often see swimming pool accidents occur as a result of:
- Improper barriers. A fence or other barrier around a pool reduces the risk of accidental drowning, especially in children.
- Poor swimming ability. If you don’t know how to swim, you probably shouldn’t be near a pool.
- The location of the pool. This is mostly a problem in residential settings. If it’s easy for a child to get near a pool, they could fall in and drown.
- Poor supervision. Inadequately trained lifeguards or pool attendants may not possess the skills to save a life. Even children using kiddie pools can drown in a few inches of water if they aren’t supervised.
- Alcohol use. Alcohol affects your judgment and coordination. Many pools and water parks prohibit alcohol for this exact reason.
- Poor pool maintenance. Things like cracked tile, broken glass, rickety decks, and improper use of pool chemicals could cause serious injuries and are up to the property owner or manager to maintain.
- Defective products. Defective drains, slides, ladders, and diving boards can malfunction and hurt someone.
Swimming Pool Accident Statistics
Drowning is the most common swimming pool accident in the U.S. and is more common in children than adults.
According to the CDC, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4. Children under 5 years old account for 76 percent of drownings every year.
The majority of drownings in children under 15 occurred in private or residential pools. Portable, or kiddie pools, are dangerous as well. Nine percent of pediatric deaths happened in portable pools.
Adults and children who survive drowning can face numerous medical complications that cost thousands of dollars to treat. Initial treatment for children under 14 can start at $8,000 and total over $12,000 per year. That means over the child’s life, medical treatment for non-fatal drowning injuries, from surgery to physical therapy to medication, can easily exceed $1 million.
Swimming Pool Accident Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries or TBIs are the second most common injuries from swimming pool accidents. They occur when the swimmer’s brain is deprived of oxygen from being under water too long. TBIs are also caused by blows to the head, resulting in brain swelling and loss of function.
Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are also quite common. These injuries occur when vertebrae are cracked or shattered as a result of diving into shallow water, hitting the side of the pool, or striking a diving board. While some spinal cord injuries can be repaired with surgery, others may leave the swimmer partially or completely paralyzed.
Swimming pool injuries can also result in:
- Slip and fall injuries
- Broken bones
- Broken teeth
- Organ damage/bleeding
- Injuries by sharp objects requiring amputation of digits or limbs (glass, broken tile, metal shards, etc.)
- Cuts, scrapes, or bruises
- Chemical burns (exposure to pool chemicals, chlorine, etc.)
- Infections resulting in loss of vision and/or hearing
- Entrapment injuries (suction from drains)
- Wrongful death
Responsibilities of Swimming Pool Owners
Whether private or public, pool owners must adhere to a strict set of laws to keep their property safe. There are three types of pool users, called entrants, that pool owners have to be aware of:
- Licensees are guests at private or residential pools. Because the licensee is invited, private and residential pool owners don’t have to warn the licensee of any hazards that are not obvious.
- Invitees are people who use public pools. The pool owners or managers are responsible for any maintenance and repairs that are required to avoid injury.
- Trespassers are those who use pools without permission from the owner. Pool owners are not responsible for injuries incurred by trespassers. The exception is if the trespasser is a child, in which case attractive nuisance comes into play.
Public pool owners or managers must do the following in order to protect their invitees:
- Provide supervision
- Supply emergency rescue equipment
- Maintain pool and deck areas, repairing when needed
- Post signs with pool rules, warnings, or hazards
Failing to complete these steps opens the owner up to lawsuits and fines by the state.
Private pool owners must do the following in order to protect their licensees:
- Enclose the pool with at least a 4-foot high barrier or fence that cannot be climbed over or under
- Cover the pool with an approved cover when not in use
- Install exit alarms on all doors and windows that provide direct access to the pool
- Install outward-opening, self-closing, and self-latching devices on all doors with direct pool access
Failure to adhere to these rules could result in lawsuits against the private pool owner as well as a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
Types of Swimming Pool Accident Lawsuits
If the pool owner does not obey the law and someone is injured, there are a number of lawsuits they could face. Below are some of the most common lawsuits associated with swimming pool accidents:
When talking about swimming pools, premises liability includes things like failing to post warnings, provide safety equipment, install fencing/alarms, or provide adequate supervision. Public and private pool owners have a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions necessary to protect their licensees or invitees. Almost all swimming pool accidents fall under premises liability.
This lawsuit can be filed when the pool itself, or equipment in and around the pool, causes an injury. If this is the case, you may be able to sue the manufacturers, retailers, or distributors of the defective product.
You can claim that the pool owner or manager was negligent in certain circumstances. For instance, if a diving board is improperly installed and injures someone. Another example would be if the pool owner or manager hired a lifeguard who lacked the training and certifications required to adequately protect swimmers.
Young children who don’t understand the risks associated with pools cannot be held liable for their actions. Under the attractive nuisance doctrine, pool owners must exercise extreme caution and ensure that no child could get into their pool without supervision. For an attractive nuisance lawsuit in Florida to be valid, the following must be true:
- The injury must occur on property where the owner knows or should know that children are likely to trespass
- The owner knows this likelihood has the potential to cause injury or death
- The child or children are too young to understand the risks of swimming pools
- The cost of making the pool inaccessible to children is low when compared to the potential risk for harm
Whether any of the above forms of liability are present or not, assumption of risk is one situation in which the swimmer, or their parent or guardian, could be held responsible for the accident or injury.
Assumption of risk occurs when the swimmer knows there is no lifeguard on duty. It is even more relevant if there are “swim at your own risk” or “no lifeguard on duty” signs posted at the pool. If this is the case, a judge or jury could argue that the swimmer was warned of the risks of swimming unsupervised and did it anyway. This could make the swimmer partially, if not totally, responsible for their injuries and expenses.
Contacting a Florida Swimming Pool Accident Attorney
If you or your child was injured in a swimming pool accident, the attorneys at Heintz & Becker can help. We’ve helped victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida get compensation for their damages and medical expenses after a swimming pool injury. Call us to schedule your free consultation at 941-748-2916.