What Should You Do After A Swimming Pool Drowning Or Accident?
- Preserve Evidence. If possible, write down
the names, addresses and phone numbers of all potential witnesses to
the swimming pool drowning or accident. Take photographs of the
accident scene from different angles- the inside and the outside of the
pool, the surrounding conditions, the signs, the fences and gates and
the specific location where the swimming pool drowning occurred. Take
photographs of any related pool equipment that contributed to the
swimming pool drowning or accident (i.e., a faulty diving board, a
defective drain grate, a ladder in disrepair, etc.). Make sure that any
defective products are not disposed of and are kept in a secure place.
If the product is in the possession of someone else, seek a lawyer's
help (your lawyer may be able to file for a temporary restraining order
and a preliminary injunction to avoid destruction of the product).
Document The Events And Your Injuries. As soon as practical after a swimming pool drowning you should:
- document all events surrounding the accident;
- obtain police reports concerning the incident and records from the hospital emergency room;
- keep notes of all conversations with police, witnesses, emergency medical personnel, and hospital doctors.
In the case of a near-drowning you should:
- keep records of all medical appointments and treatments, medications
taken, lost time from work and other activities, pain experienced,
limitation of activities, and all incurred expenses;
- keep notes of all conversations with doctors and medical staff, and
- if applicable, take photographs of any external injuries.
Contact An Experienced California Swimming Pool Drowning Attorney. In
the aftermath of a tragic swimming pool drowning or accident, hiring an
attorney may not seem like a top priority. Obtaining medical attention
for yourself or an injured loved one is your main concern. However,
complex legal and safety issues may be involved and it is essential to
consult a California swimming pool drowning lawyer as soon as possible after a swimming pool accident. In
the event of a swimming pool drowning, it is difficult for a grieving
family to think about legal issues. An experienced swimming pool
drowning lawyer will be able to protect your legal rights during such a
traumatic and emotional time.
Do Not Talk To An Insurance Company Without Your Attorney Present. Soon
after a swimming pool drowning any negligent parties will have
contacted their insurance company. Every insurance company has a team
of adjusters, investigators, and lawyers whose primary responsibility
is to limit liability and minimize the pay out on a claim. Often,
victims or their families are bombarded with paperwork and questions.
In the case of a near-drowning you cannot ask for additional
compensation once you have agreed to a settlement. Many times a person
or their loved one injured in a swimming pool accident will discover
later that injuries were more extensive than first realized, which
could lead to additional unexpected medical bills and longer
disability. Do not discuss anything pertaining to your injuries or
about the accident which caused them without consulting a swimming pool
accident attorney first.
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 And Other Injuries
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.
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.
accidents account for over ten percent of the approximately 10,000
spinal injuries incurred in the United States every year. Nearly 13,000
people annually incur diving related injuries serious enough to require
hospitalization. Defective products such as diving boards, lack of
maintenance, negligent supervision, and lack of warning signs are
common issues in determining liability.
pool decks are slippery and many people are injured after a slip and
fall in these areas. Negligent supervision and the lack of warning
signs are frequent liability issues.
chemicals are necessary for clean pool water, but they are also
hazardous if improperly used and can severely injure a swimmer.
Negligence of the pool owner or operator is the most common basis for
What Kind Of Compensation Can I Recover In My Swimming Pool Drowning Or Accident Claim?
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:
Medical expenses. Includes
bills and expenses for medication, amublance fees and services from
doctors, hospitals, health care providers, related to your swimming
pool accident. In the case of a swimming pool drowning, if the victim
had medical expenses before dying they can be awarded to the victim's
Funeral expenses. Costs associated with the victim's funeral and burial in a swimming pool drowning.
Pain and suffering.
This is an award to compensate the victim for past and future physical
pain caused by the swimming pool accident. In a swimming pool drowning
an award can be made to the victim's survivors for the pain and
suffering caused by the victim's death.
In a swimming pool drowning, the survivors of the victim may be awarded
the value of a prospective inheritance the victim would have received
if he or she had lived.
In a swimming pool accident, this award represents the amount of money
the victim would have earned from the time of the injury to the final
judgment or settlement. Anticipated lost earnings and lost work
benefits can also be awarded to the victim's survivors in the case of a
swimming pool drowning.
Lost earning capacity. If
the injuries from a swimming pool accident have impaired the victim's
ability to earn money in the future, compensation can be awarded for
Future medical expenses. This applies to continued medical care needed as a result of a swimming pool accident or near-drowning.
Loss of consortium. These
damages apply to the loss of assistance and companionship of the
spouse. Usually the spouse of the injured person makes a claim for
these damages and in some cases the injured spouse will make a claim
also. Parents may also recover these damages when their child is
injured in a swimming pool accident and the injuries interfere with
their normal family relationships.
Loss of society and companionship. This
generally occurs in wrongful death cases when the immediate family
members of the victim of a swimming pool drowning make a claim for the
loss of love, comfort, and companionship they would have enjoyed if the
person had survived the accident.
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.
For more information on related topics, see:
What Exactly is Personal Injury?
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Swimming Pool Drowning Statistics
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.
Who Is Responsible For A Swimming Pool Drowning?
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:
Owners of private, residential swimming pools.
Owners of property with private or commercial pools used for the
benefit of guests, members or tenants (such as motels, campgrounds,
health clubs, or apartment complexes).
Owners of government
property (discussed below), such as municipal swimming pools open to
the community or school swimming pools.
operators of the property. For example, someone who rents the property
could also be liable for damages in a swimming pool drowning where he
or she failed to take reasonable precautions to protect guests from
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:
Lack of fencing.
According to the CPSC, in-ground pools without complete fencing are 60
percent more likely to involve a swimming pool drowning than fenced
pools. A property owner may be liable after a swimming pool drowning if
it can be shown that a reasonably prudent pool owner would have
installed safety features such as fencing and locked gates.
Warning signs. A
property owner may also be liable for a swimming pool drowning if he or
she failed to post warning signs. A pool owner has a duty to act
reasonably in warning swimmers of possible dangers, such as posting
signs indicating the depth of the water or a "swim at your own risk"
sign in the absence of a lifeguard. However, if a swimming pool
drowning occurs and warning signs are hidden or unreadable, the
property owner may be liable. Some dangers are "open and obvious" and a
court may not find liability in a swimming pool drowning because a
reasonable person would have common knowledge of the dangers of
swimming without a lifeguard on duty or that shallow depths are not for
Negligent supervision. The
owner of a private residence can be liable for a swimming pool drowning
for failing to supervise guests, especially if they represented that
they would be watching a child. A private commercial landowner that has
a swimming pool open to the public as part of their business has a
greater degree of duty to protect swimmers from a swimming pool
drowning, and may face liability if no lifeguard is provided, or if
warning signs are lacking, despite some dangers being open and obvious.
If a lifeguard is negligent in his or her supervision of swimming pool
users, the employer and/or property owner can be held liable for
swimming pool drownings.
Lack of maintenance. Property
owners can be liable for swimming pool drownings if they failed to
maintain the pool or safety equipment in a reasonably safe condition.
For example a swimming pool that is only partially filled may give rise
to liability if someone strikes their head on the bottom and is injured
or drowns. If pool water becomes murky and the bottom slippery from
debris, a property owner could be liable for a swimming pool drowning
if someone under the water could not be seen, or if a victim could not
get out of a pool due to slippery sides and bottom.
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
the pool manufacturer (or the manufacturer of a component part of the pool),
the retail store that sold the pool to the customer, and
anyone who assembled or installed the pool.
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:
design defects that are present in the design of the product before it is made,
manufacturing defects that occur in the manufacturing process, and
marketing defects, such as inadequate safety warnings.
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
Choosing The Right Lawyer For Your Swimming Pool Drowning Claim
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:
Choose a lawyer that is experienced and well established. Choosing
a swimming pool drowning lawyer with a proven track record of
successful negotiations and trials is essential. An experienced
swimming pool drowning lawyer will be able to quickly and effectively
initiate investigations, secure evidence, locate witnesses, file
necessary documents, and keep your case moving forward.
Choose an attorney or firm that is well-financed. Many
swimming pool drowning cases take a large amount of resources,
especially if they happen to go to trial. Determining liability in a
swimming pool drowning requires extensive discovery, witness
interviews, and accident reconstruction. It is important that your
lawyer has the financial resources to undertake all the essential
elements of a swimming pool drowning or accident investigation.
Choose a lawyer that will be committed to your case.
effective working relationship between the attorney and the client is
essential. You should seek an Orange County personal injury lawyer
keep you informed of the progress of your case, who is professional and
honest, who remains in contact, promptly returns phone calls, and who
will zealously protect your interests.
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.