Every year, there are thousands of accidents at swimming pools. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that more than 3,500 people drown each year. About one-fifth of these are children 14 years or younger.
Further, the CDC asserts that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. In addition, the CDC estimates that 5 children are taken to emergency rooms because of injuries sustained in a swimming pool for every 1 child who drowns.
What are Common Swimming Pool Accidents?
Some of the most common swimming pool accidents are:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Diving board injuries
- Broken limbs
Any of these can be the direct result of defects in the pool or pool equipment or the pool owner’s lack of attention to what goes on at their pool. It’s important that pool owners maintain their pool, erect a barrier to prevent access to people who are not invited to use the pool, and supervise all use of the pool to ensure that people present at the pool are not injured.
What Can Cause Swimming Pool Accidents?
Various factors contribute to swimming pool accidents. They include:
- Swimmers whose swimming skills are inadequate, especially for the deep-end of the pool
- Lack of supervision of swimmers
- Combining alcohol and pool use
- Seizure disorders
- Other unforeseen accidents
Some accidents around the pool may not necessarily be within the control of the pool’s owner. Swimmers themselves can contribute to accidents by swimming despite knowing that they are not strong swimmers. Or pool guests behave inappropriately around the pool by, for example, running on slippery, wet pavement or tiles.
However, it is likely that the pool owner will be responsible for a drowning, if a child wanders into a pool area and falls in the water because there is no barrier around the pool and inadequate supervision.
Who is Liable for Swimming Pool Accidents?
The owner or operator of a swimming pool has a legal duty to use reasonable care in operating a swimming pool. Failing to exercise reasonable care can lead to injuries, for which the pool owner can be legally responsible.
In order to prove that a pool owner or operator was negligent in operating their pool, the following must be proven:
- The pool owner/operator owed a guest a duty of care in the operation of their swimming pool;
- The owner/operator breached that duty, i.e. failed to do what was required to ensure safety;
- A guest suffered an injury as a result of the breach; and
- The breach of the duty was the direct cause of the injury.
Essentially, if a person is invited or pays to use an owner/operator’s pool, then the owner/operator owes that person a duty of care. If the pool guest follows the rules of the pool but suffers an injury because of the pool owner/operator’s lack of care, then the pool owner/operator is likely to be responsible for the guest’s injury.
For example, suppose there is a ladder for access into the deep end of a pool. It is broken and not safe to use, but the owner/operator fails to warn a guest and the guest is injured when they attempt to enter the pool using the ladder. It is very likely that the pool owner/operator is negligent in the eyes of the law and responsible for compensating the guest for their injury.
How Can Pool Owners Prevent Swimming Pool Accidents?
The owner or operator of a swimming pool should take reasonable steps to prevent or minimize the possibility of injury to pool users, including the following:
- Have a lifeguard on duty if people are using the pool;
- A pool is not in use should be covered;;
- Fence off the pool to prevent uninvited people from gaining access;
- Have guests supervise their children at all times;
- Post signs that indicate the pool rules and the depth of the pool;
- Ask people using the pool if they can swim; professional operators might even test swimmers; and
- Carry a homeowner’s insurance policy that includes coverage for pool accidents.
If someone is injured in a pool accident and the owner/operator’s homeowner’s insurance provides coverage for the pool, then it is likely that the homeowner’s insurance company will handle any lawsuit that arises from a pool accident and pay compensatory damages to the injured party.
Should I Speak to an Attorney?
A local personal injury attorney can help to create a strong negligence case against a pool owner or operator. In addition, an attorney can evaluate medical evidence to accurately identify the extent of injuries and determine the appropriate compensatory damages. When a pool owner is purchasing homeowner’s insurance, an attorney might also ensure that the insurance coverage limits are adequate to cover any damages that might have to be paid if a person is injured at their pool.
The process of proving negligence and resulting damages requires the knowledge and expertise that a good attorney can provide.