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Swimming Pool Accidents Can Turn Tragic Instantly
Swimming pool drownings and accidents are, tragically, a common occurrence. What begins as a relaxing day in the swimming pool with friends and family can quickly turn into a tragedy. In a few seconds a memorable outing can suddenly become a nightmare. If you or a family member is the victim of a swimming pool accident or a loved one is killed in a swimming pool drowning you should contact an experienced swimming pool drowning attorney without delay.
In the case of a near-drowning you should:
Swimming pool drownings often occur on property owned by a federal, state, or local entity. There are thousands of municipal pools in cities across the country, as well as pools in public schools and federal, state, and county parks and recreation centers. The same legal theories of premises liability and negligence that apply to private property owners also apply to governmental entities. Governments have the same duty to maintain their swimming pools in a safe condition to ensure that their employees are not careless in their maintenance of facilities and supervision of swimmers. However different rules apply if you sue a governmental entity for liability after a swimming pool drowning or swimming pool accident. There are very specific requirements for giving notice and filing a claim for a swimming pool drowning. If these rules are not followed you can automatically lose your right to receive compensation from the government for a swimming pool drowning. The complexity of filing a claim against the government for a swimming pool drowning makes it imperative to get the assistance of an attorney experienced in these types of lawsuits.
Near-drownings can result in devastating consequences for the victim. For children that survive a near-drowning, 5 percent to 20 percent suffer severe and permanent neurological disabilities since brain damage (hypoxia) generally occurs after four minutes of submersion. These life altering injuries may require a variety of medical expenses, such as surgeries, medications, and visits to specialists. In many cases the victim requires life-time medical care and assisted-living. The same legal theories that apply to swimming pool drownings (premises liability, negligence, and products liability) also apply to near-drownings. This type of personal injury case is often quite complex and may require the use of safety experts, accident re-constructionists, and medical experts. It is therefore critical to retain an attorney experienced in swimming pool accidents.
Other common injuries associated with swimming pools are diving accidents, slip and falls, and injuries from pool chemicals. All three of the legal theories for liability in swimming pool accidents discussed above apply to these types of injuries, depending on the circumstances.
Damage awards in a swimming pool accident claim are intended to help restore the victim physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. In the case of a swimming pool drowning, a claim for damages is filed by the surviving beneficiaries of the victim as a wrongful death action.
In general there are two main types of damages: 1) Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for his or her bad conduct and to act as a deterrent to prevent the defendant and others from acting the same way. 2) Compensatory or actual damages are intended to cover all the expenses caused by a swimming pool drowning or accident. Actual damage awards can include the following:
Of course, in any personal injury action or wrongful death claim damages must be proven. It is therefore very important to review your possible damages with an attorney experienced in swimming pool drownings and accidents.
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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that approximately 500 children under 5 years of age are the victims of swimming pool drownings each year. Another 3,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for injuries associated with near-drownings. Swimming pool drownings are the second leading cause of death in the United States for that age group (after auto accidents). In California, swimming pool drowning surpasses all other causes of death to children ages 14 and under. Of all preschoolers who are victims of a swimming pool drowning, 70 percent 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.
The question of liability in a swimming pool drowning depends upon the nature of the accident itself. There are three legal theories that could be involved: 1) premises liability; 2) negligence, and 3) products liability.
1. Premises Liability
Premises liability basically says that a property owner is liable for injuries that occur as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on the property that the owner knew about or should have known about. In the case of a swimming pool drowning the property owner has a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to make sure that his or her swimming pool is safe for users, or anyone else on the property. In California the landowner has a duty of reasonable care towards anyone entering the property (even a trespasser).
The owner is negligent if he or she fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent a swimming pool drowning. Premises liability in swimming pool drownings applies to:
In the case of swimming pool drownings, premises liability is usually based upon inadequacies in the property owner's maintenance of the pool and pool area, or supervision of pool users. Some of these inadequacies in a swimming pool drowning case could include the following:
Under the negligence basis for a swimming pool drowning claim, a person is liable if they were negligent in causing the accident. Negligence is the failure to do what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances. As we have seen under premises liability, a property owner's negligence in failing to make the property safe establishes his or her liability. Other parties may also be liable if their negligence leads to a swimming pool drowning. For example, if pool equipment was improperly installed, resulting in a swimming pool drowning, there might be a cause of action in negligence against the installers. An employer might be liable if a lifeguard is hired that was unqualified, or if the lifeguard's negligent supervision leads to a swimming pool drowning.
Another form of negligence is called negligence per se, or strict liability. Under this theory of recovery a party is liable for a swimming pool drowning if they have violated a law. California and many of its cities and towns have passed laws or ordinances which impose restrictions and requirements on the construction and maintenance of residential swimming pools in order to prevent swimming pool drownings. These laws may require special pool covers, locked gates and fencing that completely surrounds a swimming pool. Failure to follow such ordinances will result in the property owner's liability in the event of a swimming pool drowning.
3. Products Liability
Products liability is a strict liability claim and is not dependent upon someone's negligence. Under this basis for recovery a manufacturer or seller of a defective swimming pool or related equipment is held liable for placing that defective product in the hands of a consumer. When a defective swimming pool or equipment is the cause of a swimming pool drowning, there are several potential responsible parties:
In this type of action, it must be shown that the pool or related equipment was defective and that the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous for its intended use. There are three types of defects:
As an example, suppose a child comes in contact with an underwater pool drain and the suction from the pump is so strong that the child either cannot pull free, or is entrapped when a foot or hand becomes stuck in the drain grate. If the child is injured or drowns, a product liability action could be filed against the pool manufacturer, who may be liable for a design defect. Sometimes the design of the entire pool itself may be faulty. For example, a dangerous condition might exist where the shallow and deep areas are not clearly marked on the pool or if it is difficult to see where the pool is deep enough for diving.
Products used in or around the pool can also be defective and cause a swimming pool drowning or serious injury. Water slides could have weak spots from a manufacturing defect that results in falls. Flotation devices for children could be defective because of a lack of adequate instructions for safe use, clearly indicating a marketing defect.
There are many difficult issues facing a family that suffering from the tragic loss of a child or loved one in a swimming pool drowning. The critical injury of a child in a swimming pool accident can have devastating and long-lasting effects on health, finances, and family relationships. Personal injury actions for near-drownings and wrongful death claims for drownings can involve complex legal, factual, and evidentiary issues. Choosing the right swimming pool drowning lawyer is therefore a critical decision. The following factors are essential when choosing a lawyer:
In the event of a swimming pool drowning or accident you should immediately seek the advice of competent lawyers to make sure that your rights are preserved. Make sure you have the information you need to make an educated decision on choosing a lawyer.
The Reeves Law Group has handled thousands of personal injury cases successfully, including numerous swimming pool drowning cases, while earning a reputation of professionalism and competence. The Reeves Law Group has the experience, skill, and resources to ensure that our clients will obtain optimum representation in their wrongful death or swimming pool accident claim. For a free consultation, please call us at (800) 644-8000 or e-mail us.