Swimming pools are becoming an increasingly popular amenity in homes new and old, and represent an activity that is especially enjoyable in the summertime. Unfortunately, pools can also be extremely dangerous, particularly for small and unsupervised children. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages one to four have the highest drowning rates, most of which occur in residential swimming pools. Approximately 300 children under the age of five die from pool-related accidents each year, and 2,000 more young children are hospitalized for submersion injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a swimming pool accident or if a person has suffered injury or death while swimming in your pool, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
Factors That Influence Drowning Risk
There are a number of important factors that influence drowning risk and should be taken into consideration when preventing summertime swimming pool accidents and pool owner liability. It important for both parents and pool owners to consider all aspects of pool safety before allowing children, adolescents or adults access to swimming pools.
- Lack of Supervision and Barriers
It is extremely important for young children and even
adults to be supervised when participating in swimming pool activities, whether by a professional lifeguard, parent or guardian. In addition, barriers like pool fencing should be used to prevent young children from gaining access to a pool area without the awareness or supervision of a caregiver. According to CDC statistics, there is an 83% reduction in the risk of childhood drowning with a four-sided isolation pool fence, compared to the three-sided property line fencing.
Although life jacket use is typically more strictly enforced during boating activities or while swimming in lakes or rivers, small children and even adolescents or adults may also benefit from using a life jacket while swimming in a residential pool.
Up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation involve alcohol use. Alcohol can severely affect judgment, balance and coordination, and its effects are heightened by heat and sun exposure, making it especially dangerous during pool use.
Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury and death among individuals with seizure disorders.
Consequences Associated with Swimming Pool Accidents and Injuries
In 2007, there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, which translates to an average of ten deaths per day. Even nonfatal drownings can have severe consequences, potentially resulting in brain damage and long-term disabilities like permanent loss of basic functioning, memory problems and learning disabilities. According to the CDC, more than 55% of drowning victims treated in the emergency room require further hospitalization or transfer for higher levels of care. The injuries associated with swimming pool accidents can be severe, and the medical costs associated with pool accidents and injuries can also be quite high. During the initial hospitalization alone, medical costs can reach $2,000 even for victims who recover fully. For swimming pool accident victims who suffer severe injuries like brain damage, medical costs can skyrocket to $80,000.
How to Prevent Swimming Pool Accidents
The CDC provides tips to pool owners and users which can help prevent swimming pool accidents, injuries and death.
- Learn to swim properly. According to research, receiving formal swimming lesson instruction can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged one to four years.
- Designate a responsible adult to watch children in and around the water. Children should be within touch of this person at all times. Adults should not be engaged in other activities while watching children near a pool, including reading, talking on the phone, etc.
- Always swim with a buddy and/or swim within sight of a lifeguard when possible.
- Learn CPR. The faster a bystander’s response time, the better chance the victim has of surviving.
- Do not use foam toys in place of life jackets. Noodles and inner tubes are not designed to keep a child safe, and may instill a false sense of security when a child is playing in a swimming pool.
- Avoid alcohol use before and during pool-side supervision.
How to Prevent Owner Liability in Swimming Pool Accidents
If you have a pool at home, you are responsible for taking the appropriate measures to make the area as safe as possible. The first step you should take in pool ownership is to install four-sided fencing around the pool so that the house and play area of the yard are completely separated from the pool area. The fence should be at least four feet high and should employ self-latching gates that open outward with latches that are out of reach of children. You may also consider installing additional pool barriers like automatic door locks or alarms to prevent unauthorized pool access or to alert you if someone enters the pool area. Another step to take to prevent swimming pool accidents and injuries is to clear the pool and pool deck of toys. Floats, balls and other toys should be removed from the pool and surrounding area immediately after use so that children aren’t tempted to re-enter the pool area without supervision.
Most young children who drown in swimming pools were last seen in their home, had been out of sight for less than five minutes, and were in the care of one or both parents at the time they were last seen. Many communities have established safety regulations governing residential swimming pools; in addition to these regulations, parents and pool owners can take their own precautions to reduce the chances of unsupervised children gaining access to swimming pool areas. If your child has suffered serious injury or death as a result of a swimming pool accident, contact a personal injury attorney, as you may be entitled to financial compensation for your child’s injuries and the pain and suffering endured by you and your family. If you are a pool owner and an accident occurred at your residence, there are steps you can take to avoid facing owner liability for injuries incurred. With the help of a qualified personal injury lawyer, you can be aware of your legal options and ensure that your rights are adequately protected.