What Are The Legal Options Available To The Family Of A Drowning Accident Victim?
Sometimes, a drowning accident is simply a tragic event where no third party shares any legal liability or responsibility for the incident. Other times, however, property owners and/or managers fail to follow proper safety procedures or take proper precautions to make their pool or property safe, and their negligence results in the wrongful death of another. This can occur at swimming pools in apartment complexes, hotels and other facilities.
At the law firm of Slaughter & Slaughter, we are experienced in handling cases involving unintentional drownings, and we can provide a free consultation to look into potential causes of action and theories of legal liability to determine if someone else’s negligence or the dangerous condition of the pool contributed to a drowning or death.
Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts
Every day, approximately 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of those 10 drowning deaths that occur each day, two are children aged 14 or younger.
Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States, and it is the second leading cause of death of children under the age of 15.
Where do Drownings Occur?
San Diego attracts many visitors and families on vacation who are taking advantage of our warm, sunny weather, and proximity to the ocean and family attractions, such as local amusement parks and the zoo. Because of the warm, year-round weather, San Diego has an extremely high number of swimming pools at the following locations:
- Hotels & Motels
- Apartment Complexes
- Fitness Centers
- Municipal Pools
- Private Homes
Common Causes of swimming pool accidents.
Drownings or submersion incidents can occur because of the lack of proper pool safety features, including inadequate fencing or gates without proper latching mechanisms, inadequate lighting in and around the pool, or lack of property safety equipment, such as life-
saving poles/hooks and safety rings. Another very important piece of life-saving equipment that may be used to save drowning victims is an Automated External Defibrillator (commonly known as an “AED”), which anyone can use to save the life of someone who is in cardiac arrest.
Drowning accidents can also occur at commercial swimming pool facilities that are not properly prepared or equipped to handle emergencies due to the failure to have staff or personnel who are properly trained and certified to perform CPR, or the lack of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) on the premises.
Pools, jacuzzis, spas and hot tubs often have powerful drains with dangerous suction that can trap swimmers and cause drowning or injury to the bowels or other body organs. In 2007, Congress passed the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act to require anti-entrapment drain covers and other safety devices.
Diving accidents can occur when swimmers dive into shallow water due to improper markings of the water depth or due to their inability to see the bottom of the pool due to cloudy water or inadequate lighting.
Accidental death or injury can also occur due to the failure to have proper signs, warning swimmers that there are no lifeguards on duty, or that children under the age of 14 must be supervised at all times by an adult.
Drowning is a Silent Killer
Most people believe that a drowning event is loud, and involves a lot of splashing, thrashing, screaming and cries for help. In fact, that is a myth that has been perpetuated by movies and television. In fact, drowning occurs quickly and without much noise. A child can quickly and silently slip under the water, and drowning can only take seconds. When a swimmer is in trouble and is struggling to breathe, they can’t shout or call for help.
Do you Know What Drowning Really Looks Like?
Learn to look for the signs of drowning and alert a lifeguard or call for help if you see a swimmer exhibiting any of the following behaviors:
- Head tilted back with mouth open or head low in the water
- Eyes closed, glassy or unable to focus
- Legs that are hanging vertically with no kicking
- Hyperventilating or gasping
- Attempting to swim in a particular direction without making headway
- Trying to roll over onto their back
- Appearing to climb an invisible ladder, children may appear to be doing the dog-paddle
These swimmers may be in immediate danger of drowning, and you should get them help immediately.
Proper supervision of children in the pool is the number one measure that can be taken to prevent drowning accidents from occurring. An adult should always be present when children are in the pool, and that adult should be paying close attention to the swimmers. It is best to have a designated “water-watcher,” whose primary job is to monitor the children in the pool at all times. The person who is designated as the water-watcher should refrain from consuiming alcohol, and should remain singularly focused on actively watching children in the water, without being distracted by other activities, such as barbecuing, doing chores, or watching small children who are outside the pool.
It is always best to swim in a pool that is being actively monitored by properly trained and certified lifeguards, who have the education, skills, training and experience to properly monitor swimmers, rescue swimmers in trouble and perform life-saving or life-sustaining first aid, such as CPR and/or the use of an AED. Even in public pools with lifeguards on duty, parents need to be in the water with young children and stay within arms’ reach of infants, toddlers and weak swimmers.
Another important thing that everyone can do to try to prevent or minimize the incidence of drowning is to teach children to swim at an early age. Sign children up for swimming lessons at your local YMCA or community recreation center, and reinforce those lessons every year to make sure that children are safe in the water.
Layers of Protection
Most experts agree that the first and most important layer of protection for children in the pool is constant adult supervision during while children are swimming. However, there are many other “layers” of protection that can be put into place to protect children during non swim times as well.
- Fencing- the pool should be surrounded by fence at least 4 feet tall
- Gates – the fence should have self-closing and self-latching gates with gates that are out of the reach of children
- Door Alarm – the door to the pool should have an alarm to alert parents to a child going into the pool area alone
- Pool Alarm -install an underwater motion swimming pool alarm that attached to the side of the pool and detects motion under the water, rather than monitoring surface movement that can be triggered by wind moving the water
Never Leave Children Alone in the Pool
Still, the best advice by far is to never, ever leave a child alone in a pool, even for a few seconds. Don’t assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning. All kids need to be supervised in the water at all times, no matter what their level of swimming skills may be. Stay within arm’s reach of young children and weak swimmers to provide “touch supervision.” Also, be aware that “water wings” and other inflatable devices are not effective protection against drowning, as they may not keep the child’s head and face up and out of the water.
What to Do if Someone You Love has Drowned
Talk to an experienced attorney at Slaughter & Slaughter in San Diego, and let us investigate your case to determine if your loved one died due to the negligence or mistake of another person or organization. We are committed to helping our clients get answers about how such a tragedy occurred and to hold accountable those who are responsible. We also strive to obtain justice and compensation for our clients, and to take action to prevent such tragedies from happening to others.