Swimming pools are synonymous with summer, and families everywhere are busy this time of year going for dips in their backyard pools, at community facilities, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, higher numbers of swimmers equate to more swimming pool accidents. Who is liable for the resulting injuries and how is the at-fault party held accountable? The Santa Ana premises liability lawyers at Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers take a look.
How Many People Drown Every Year?
Across the country, anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 people drown per year. California has more drownings than nearly every other state. From 2018 to the summer of 2022, approximately 339 people drowned in California pools, with only Florida having more drownings. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five, and the second-leading cause of death for children under age 14. Of the nearly 340 drownings in California, 112 resulted in the death of a child under the age of five.
Other Pool-Related Injuries
Swimming pool deaths are not the only injuries associated with swimming pools. A negligent property owner who doesn’t take steps to prevent accidents could wind up causing someone to suffer any number of other injuries, such as:
Also known as dry drowning, this occurs when someone almost drowns and inhales a large amount of water. The water becomes trapped in the lungs and causes pulmonary edema, a fluid buildup in the lungs. A victim of secondary drowning can appear to breathe normally for up to 48 hours before the problem becomes evident.
Brain damage from near-drowning
A near-drowning that deprives the brain of oxygen can cause anoxic brain damage. This can take place with as little as four minutes of oxygen deprivation. When this happens to a child, the young victim may develop permanent injuries.
Slips and falls
Pool areas are naturally slippery, so it’s easy for someone to slip and fall. A victim may suffer brain damage, spinal cord injury, bone fractures, and more. Using a non-slip coating on the surfaces surrounding a pool can help but it may not prevent all slip and fall accidents.
This happens when someone gets stuck to a drain or suction fitting in a pool or spa. It can occur either because of water suction or from getting stuck in an opening, and can even happen if the pool’s pumps are turned off. Drain entrapment is a serious danger, especially for children who are too small to break free.
Whether there is a diving board or not, a swimmer can get injured from diving into a pool. Often this occurs because the water is too shallow. A diver attempting to perform a trick can hit their head on the diving board or concrete surface as well. Brain, neck, and spinal cord injuries are common in diving accidents.
Pools Are Considered an Attractive Nuisance
An attractive nuisance is an aspect of someone’s property that is enticing to others. Children, along with others, are often tempted to enter a property that has a pool on it. And they may do so without permission. Because the law considers pools to be attractive nuisances, and because pools can cause the sorts of injuries mentioned above, homeowners have a heightened duty of care. Specifically, if someone has a pool on their property, an injured person can sue the owner even if the victim was a trespasser.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Swimming Pool Accidents?
Every swimming pool accident case must be evaluated on its own merits. Depending on the circumstances of your case, the following parties may be held liable:
- The owner of a residential or private swimming pool
- The owner of a commercial swimming pool that is open to guests, such as one at a gym, health club, hotel, motel, or campground
- The government unit that owns the public, municipal, or school swimming pool
- The individual or business in possession of the pool when the accident happened
- The manufacturer, designer, or distributor of a dangerous or defective swimming pool component or part
What Does the California Swimming Pool Safety Act Require?
California Health and Safety Code Article 2.5, commonly known as the Swimming Pool Safety Act, requires single-family homeowners with swimming pools to implement at least two of seven drowning prevention safety features:
- An enclosure, such as a fence or wall, that restricts access to the swimming pool
- A removable mesh fence with a lockable gate
- A safety pool cover
- Alarms on doors that lead directly to the pool
- A self-closing and self-latching device placed at least 54 inches above the floor on any door in a home that leads to a swimming pool
- An alarm that goes off if someone enters the pool
- Other features that provide at least as much safety as the above items
This law does not apply to public swimming pools or pools in apartment complexes or residential settings besides single-family homes.
How to Prove Swimming Pool Accident Liability
To win damages in a swimming pool accident case, the victim or victim’s family (in the event of death) must prove that:
- The swimming pool owner or operator owed a duty of care to the victim
- The swimming pool owner or operator failed, by some negligent act or omission, to abide by this duty of care
- This failure was a direct cause of the victim’s injury
These are some examples of negligent acts or omissions that breach the duty of care and cause swimming pool accidents:
- Inadequate supervision: Not supervising those who use the pool, especially children and intoxicated individuals.
- Not enough lifeguards on duty: Commercial pools with a certain number of guests may be required to have a minimum number of properly trained lifeguards on duty at all times.
- Lack of warning signs: Owners must warn users of swimming pool dangers, including by posting signs advising the swimmer to “swim at your own risk” if there are no lifeguards.
- Improper pool maintenance: Allowing the pool to have murky waters, clogged drains, or broken stairs or handlebars could put swimmers at risk.
- Lack of proper fencing: Owners should install secure, locked fencing around their pools to keep children and trespassers out.
- Defective parts: If the swimming pool is built with faulty components that cause injury, the manufacturer, designer, or distributor of the part can be held liable.
- Violating a swimming pool law: Evidence that the property owner violated a statute, such as the Swimming Pool Safety Act, is a strong indicator of negligence.
Injured in a Swimming Pool Accident? Our Firm Can Help
Attorney Jeff Injury Lawyers is dedicated to advocating for the rights of swimming pool accident victims and others harmed by irresponsible property owners. Were you or a loved one injured at a swimming pool? Find out why so many Santa Ana clients trust our dedicated California premises liability lawyers. Contact us today to get started on your case.