After a drowning accident, the person responsible can be held liable and made to compensate the victim. Six common parties to be held liable for a drowning include:
- private swimming pool owners,
- public swimming pool operators,
- neighborhood associations or recreation centers,
- apartment complexes,
- hotels, and
- water parks.
A personal injury lawyer can help victims and their family members recover the compensation they deserve from who is liable.
1. Private swimming pool owners
Probably the most common party to be liable for a drowning accident is the owner of the private swimming pool where it happened. Many drownings occur in swimming pools that are on the property of a private residence. When they do, the pool owner may be held liable.
Private pool owners may be liable if, for example, they:
- did not follow local regulations in securing the pool,
- negligently left a gate to the pool open,
- knew that the victim was in the pool but left them unattended, or
- failed to repair a dangerous condition related to the pool, and that led to the drowning.
If held liable, the homeowners’ insurance policy should cover the private pool’s owners. The owner’s insurance company would pay the award in the personal injury claim or wrongful death case.
2. Public swimming pool operators
Many swimming pools and other bodies of water are open to the public and operated by the local government. If a drowning happens at one of these, the government may be held liable.
Some examples of these public swimming places are:
- public pools, and
- ponds or lakes at a local, state, or national park.
The government agency operating the pool may be held liable if, for example, it:
- failed to warn of a dangerous condition in the body of water, or
- negligently hired untrained lifeguards.
They may also be vicariously liable if the drowning was not prevented because the lifeguards were negligent.
However, there are often obstacles to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity. Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be:
- a shorter statute of limitations,
- damage caps, and/or
- additional filing requirements, like a Notice of Claim.
3. Neighborhood associations or recreation centers
Some neighborhood or homeowners’ associations operate recreation centers. If the center has a swimming pool and someone drowns in it, the association may be held liable.
For example, the association may be held liable if it:
- does not repair a dangerous condition in the pool and that causes the drowning,
- does not warn patrons that there is no lifeguard on duty, or
- negligently hires its lifeguard.
However, the neighborhood or homeowners’ association may require residents to sign a liability waiver in order to use the pool. This may protect the association from its negligence, but generally not from its grossly negligent conduct.
4. Apartment complexes
If an apartment complex includes a swimming pool or hot tub, the complex may be held liable for a drowning in it. This may happen if the complex:
- ignores complaints about a dangerous condition that then causes a drowning,
- did not provide safety equipment to help someone out of the water, or
- does not take required or reasonable steps to secure the pool.
Hotels that have swimming pools on the premises may be held liable for drownings that occur in them if, for example:
- they negligently hired the lifeguard or the lifeguard’s negligence led to the drowning,
- pool safety instructions did not inform patrons of the dangers of using the diving board, or
- the pool area was not secured.
It is not uncommon for hotels to include a liability waiver for its patrons, though.
6. Water parks
Drownings can also happen at water parks. The company that owns or operates the water park may be held liable if, for example:
- a part of the park was unreasonably risky,
- its lifeguards’ negligence led to the drowning, or
- the park did not warn patrons of a potential hazard.
What is a drowning accident?
A drowning accident happens when you become submerged in water for long enough to suffer injuries. Drowning accidents can happen in a wide variety of ways.
A drowning accident lawsuit aims to recover compensation for the victim’s injuries from the person responsible for the drowning.
Are all swimming pool drownings fatal?
No. Contrary to popular belief, there are both fatal and nonfatal drownings.
A fatal drowning is when the victim dies from being submerged in water or some other liquid.
A nonfatal drowning, sometimes called a “near-drowning,” is when the victim is only submerged for long enough to suffer injuries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 4,000 fatal drowning cases and another 8,000 nonfatal drowning incidents every year in the United States. That is nearly 11 drowning deaths every day.
What are some common nonfatal swimming pool injuries?
Even if it was not fatal, a drowning accident can still cause severe injuries like:
- brain damage,
- organ damage,
- a head and spinal cord injury,
- hypothermia, and
- acute respiratory distress syndrome.
These drowning injuries can be extremely debilitating. In some cases, the drowning victim may be brain dead or have severe mental disabilities. The medical bills are often extremely high. When the victim was a young child, the family members often suffer severe emotional distress.
Recovering compensation for your losses can take the legal advice of a swimming pool accident attorney from a reputable law firm.
Are these personal injury cases based on premises liability?
It depends on the facts of the case. However, most swimming pool injury lawsuits are based on premises liability.
Premises liability holds that property owners owe a duty of care to:
- keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition, and
- warn guests of dangerous conditions that might not be open and obvious.
However, some drowning lawsuits are based on product liability. In these cases, a broken or defective product or pool equipment, such as a broken pool drain, caused the swimmer’s drowning.
For example: Ken takes his young daughter Tracy out in the canoe to fish. Tracy doesn’t know how to swim, so Ken has her wear a life jacket. The boat accidentally capsizes, but the life jacket does not work and Tracy gets hurt.
A personal injury attorney can determine how to best proceed during the case evaluation.
What is the attractive nuisance doctrine?
The attractive nuisance doctrine is an aspect of premises liability law. The doctrine makes property owners liable if a child trespasses onto their property to explore something and ends up getting hurt.
It basically extends a property owner’s legal duty of care to young trespassers.