Swimming and drowning accidents are those that occur while swimming in a private or public pool, or some other body of water. According to the CDC, over 3,500 people drown each year. Approximately one-fifth of these deaths are children aged fourteen or younger. Additionally, the CDC states that drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children between the ages of one and four years old. The CDC estimates that for every child in the United States that drowns, five other children receive E.R. care for injuries suffered in a swimming pool.

Drowning accidents occur when a person is submerged underwater, and becomes unable to resurface or recover for air. This generally results in serious injury, or even death. In technical terms, drowning can be defined as respiratory injury from being in a liquid. However, it typically implies a fatal outcome. 

Swimming and drowning accidents are generally considered to be a type of personal injury, and are commonly associated with the legal theory of negligence.

How Do Swimming/Drowning Accidents Typically Happen?

The most common examples of swimming accidents include:

  • Slip and fall accidents resulting in broken bones, scrapes, infection, etc;
  • Diving board injuries;
  • Electrocution when there are electronics near the water source;
  • Traumatic brain injury resulting from slipping, falling, drowning, etc; and
  • Drowning.

Such accidents typically occur in the following places:

  • Backyard swimming pools;
  • Public pools, such as a hotel pool or a community pool;
  • Water parks;
  • Lakes; and
  • Boats.

Accidents and drowning typically happen when a person cannot swim, or in the case of most children, they are left unsupervised around the water source. Other causes of swimming accidents and/or drowning include:

  • Intoxication, such as the swimmer themselves being intoxicated or others being too intoxicated to help a drowning swimmer;
  • Roughhousing near the water source, which could lead to a slip and fall incident; and/or
  • Inadequate security around the water source.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Swimming or Drowning Accident?

As previously mentioned, cases involving swimming accidents and/or drowning are generally treated as a personal injury or negligence case. The owner or operator of a swimming pool has a duty to use reasonable care in operating that pool. Failure to exercise reasonable care can lead to injuries, or in severe cases, death.

In order to prove a pool owner or operator was negligent in operating his or her pool, you must demonstrate the following:

  • The pool owner/operator owed a duty of care;
  • The owner/operator committed a breach of that duty;
  • You suffered an injury as a result of the owner/operator’s breach; and
  • The injury was a proximate cause of the breach.

Swimmers can be contributorily negligent. An example of this would be by swimming despite knowing that they are not strong swimmers, and not taking the necessary precautions. However, if a child wanders to a pool and falls in due to insufficient supervision and lack of a  barrier around the pool, it is likely that the pool owner will be responsible for the drowning.

Simply put, if you were invited or paid to use the owner’s pool, it can be argued that they owed you a duty of care. If you were following the rules of the pool and your injury was due to the pool owner’s lack of care, they breached their duty of care towards you and may be held liable for your injuries resulting from their negligence. An example of this would be if the ladder out of the deep end of the pool was broken, and therefore not safe to use. But, you were unaware of that fact, and the pool owner or operator failed to warn you. It is very likely that the pool owner would be found negligent in the eyes of the law.

What Types of Damages are Available for a Swimming or Drowning Accident?

Compensatory damages are the most commonly awarded damages for personal injury cases such as those resulting from swimming and/or drowning accidents. Compensatory damages are intended to restore the injured person or party (the “plaintiff”) to the position they were in before the harm or loss occurred. As such, compensatory damages are awarded in cases where quantifiable damages, injury, or loss has occurred. 

A damages award is generally meant to reimburse or cover the following expenses related to the incident:

  • Medical bills;
  • Hospital bills;
  • Therapy costs, whether physical or mental; and/or
  • Funeral costs in cases resulting in wrongful death.

Are There any Unique Swimming/Drowning Laws in Fairfax? 

Swimming and drowning incidents are treated as personal injury cases in D.C. As such, all personal injury laws apply. Additionally, there is a statute of limitations of three years. What this means is that you must make your claim within three years of the incident, or else you forfeit your right to take legal action.

D.C. adheres to what is known as a contributory fault rule. If the plaintiff contributed to their injury in any sort of way, they cannot recover any damages at all. Beyond that, there are no unique swimming and/or drowning laws in Fairfax. Each parks and recreation department may have their own rules for their own pools.

What Type of Evidence is Needed to Prove a Swimming or Drowning Case in the Fairfax Area?

In order to prove a swimming or drowning case in the Fairfax area. the plaintiff will need to prove that they were not at all contributory to their injuries. They must also prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care, which was then breached. Some examples of evidence that will likely be needed include, but may not be limited to:

  • Video and/or photographic evidence of the incident;
  • Video and/or photographic evidence of the resulting injuries;
  • Medical records;
  • Doctor’s notes; and
  • Copies of any communication between the parties once the incident occurred.

Compiling evidence in preparation for a lawsuit can be a daunting challenge. Most people may not know exactly what is all needed to prepare for such a claim. In such cases, the direction and guidance of a personal injury lawyer can be of great assistance. An attorney can relieve much of this burden by gathering the documents and evidence on your behalf.

Additionally, a lawyer can help organize and review this evidence in preparation for trial. They can review the evidence and determine the best strategy that will allow for maximum compensation of the injured party. In other words, the amount of damages that the victim receives is often dependent on the skills and capabilities of the attorney representing them in court.  

Should I Hire a Fairfax Lawyer for Help with a Swimming or Drowning Case?

If you are involved in a swimming injury and/or drowning case, and you are in the Fairfax area, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible. 

An experienced personal injury attorney can help prove that you were not contributorily negligent, and can ensure that your case is filed within the required timeframe of three years. Additionally, they will represent you in court as needed and work to get you a damages award.