Swimming and drowning accidents are those that occur while swimming in a private or public pool. According to the Centers for Disease Control, or “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. Technically speaking, drowning is defined as respiratory injury from being submerged in a liquid. However, the term typically implies a fatal outcome.
How Do Swimming/Drowning Accidents Occur?
There are various activities which may result in swimming and/or drowning accidents. Some of the most common examples and their potential injuries include, but may not be limited to:
- Swimming pool activities, such as sustaining an injury on the diving board;
- Boating and related activities, such as water skiing;
- Water parks;
- Extreme sport activities;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Broken limbs;
- Infections; and/or
- Various other recreational functions.
Any of these examples may be due to pool defects, and/or the pool owner’s property. This is why it is important that pool owners maintain and supervise any use of their pool, in order to ensure that those invited to their property are not injured.
However, there are examples of swimming pool accidents that are not necessarily under the control of the pool’s owner. Some examples of swimmers can being contributorily negligent include:
- Subpar swimming skills, especially in the deep-end of the pool;
- Lack of supervision;
- Alcohol use; and/or
- Seizure disorders.
Who Can Be Held Liable for a Swimming or Drowning Accident?
Swimming pool owners and/or operators have a duty to use reasonable care. Failing to exercise reasonable care can lead to injuries resulting from negligence. In order to prove that a pool owner or operator was negligent in operating their pool, which resulted in injury, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following:
- The pool owner/operator owed a duty of care;
- The owner/operator committed a breach of duty;
- An injury was suffered as a result of the breach; and
- The injury was a proximate cause of the breach.
Simply put, if you were invited or paid to use the owner’s pool, the owner 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 that duty of care and could be held liable for any resulting swimming or drowning accident.
An example of being injured due to negligence would be if the ladder out of the deep end of the pool was broken, and was unsafe for use. However, if you were unaware and the pool owner or operator failed to warn you, it is very likely that the pool owner is negligent in the eyes of the law.
Depending on the specifics of each individual circumstance, various parties could be held liable for a drowning incident. An example of this would be a homeowner being held liable for incidents involving a child drowning in their pool. Water parks may be held liable for drowning incidents stemming from the negligence of a park worker.
Product liability is commonly a factor in drowning cases. An example of this would be an above-ground swimming pool constructed in a way that is defective. This leads to a drowning incident. Warning label defects on certain water-related equipment, such as diving gear or water skis, is another common cause of liability for drowning.
What Damages Can Be Claimed In a Swimming or Drowning Accident?
Damages that may be claimed in a swimming or drowning accident generally mirror those of personal injury lawsuits. Wrongful death is commonly a major issue, with the resulting damages award going to the plaintiff’s estate and survivors. Such an award is intended to compensate for various costs associated with their loss.
A damages award is intended to reimburse the plaintiff for the following costs associated with their injury:
- Medical bills;
- Prescription costs;
- Physical therapy bills;
- Lost wages; and/or
- Funeral costs when wrongful death is involved.
The above are simply examples of what a damages award is intended to cover. Remedies and specific damages will vary based on each individual lawsuit, as well as the laws of each specific state. Punitive damages may be awarded in particularly egregious cases.
Are There any Unique Swimming/Drowning Laws in the Northern Virginia Area?
Swimming and/or drowning laws in the Northern Virginia area are similar to premises liability laws found elsewhere in the United States. Virginia requires that pool owners install a secure fence surrounding their pool in order to protect against potential injury and/or drowning. This is also to eliminate liability for attractive nuisance.
All swimming pools in Virginia, whether above or below ground, must have a barrier that is of at least 48 inches in height. There must be no permanent fixtures near the pool that could be used to climb over the fence, such as an electrical box.
As previously mentioned, most swimming and/or drowning cases will be treated much like personal injury cases. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years. This deadline generally begins on the date of the accident. There are no caps on most standard personal injury cases; meaning that in most cases, the amount of damages the plaintiff may receive is not limited under state law.
What Evidence Is Needed to Prove a Swimming or Drowning Case in the Northern Virginia Region?
Virginia utilizes the law of contributory negligence. This occurs when an injured person is to blame, at some level, for the accident in which they were injured. Even if the victim contributes a negligible amount, Virginia law dictates that they will not receive any sort of damages award.
As such, if you are attempting to prove a swimming or drowning case in the Northern Virginia region, you will need to prove that you did not contribute to your injuries in any way. Additionally evidence to prove your case could include:
- Video and/or photographic evidence;
- Witness statements;
- Medical records; and
- Doctor’s notes.
Do I Need an Injury Lawyer for Help with a Swimming or Drowning Case?
If you are facing a swimming or drowning case in North Virginia, you should immediately consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney in your area can help you gather evidence and file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out. Finally, an attorney can represent you in court as needed.