When a Drowning Becomes a Wrongful Death Case

June is Safety Awareness Month and it’s a good time to remind our family members that drowning is the #1 most preventable death in children ages 1-4. According to the Center for Disease Control, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States – about ten deaths per day. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. When the victim does survive, their lives are often changed forever, as near-drownings often result in brain damage from lack of oxygen.

Drowning accidents occur not just in private pools, but in hotels, motels, parks, and water parks. Unfortunately, these tragic accidents are sometimes the result of negligence. The following parties can be liable if they contributed to the accident: pool owners; organizations operating public pools, homeowners and pool manufacturers.

Possible Causes of Negligence:

Outdated Pool Drains. The older style drain covers create a vacuum effect that can trap children to the bottom of a pool. The suction power is equal to hundreds of pounds of pressure, so much that four grown men were once unable to pull a trapped child from the bottom of a pool. Federal law and a growing number of state laws now require those operating public or semi-public pools or spas to install newer designed drain covers that prevent drain suction in pools and many hot-tubs.

Inadequate signage regarding depth of pool. Owners of pools are also responsible to have adequate “no diving” signage. Permanent spinal cord injuries are caused when a person dives into water that is too shallow.

Lack of proper barrier. To keep pools safe, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that a pool barrier fence be at least 48 inches high. With fencing, make sure gaps between posts are no more than 1 ¾ inches. Additionally, there should be no more than a four-inch gap at the bottom of a fence to ensure children don’t slide under it. You don’t want children coming on to your property and drowning in your pool based on not having the proper fencing.

Simple steps that pool owners can take:

  • Check to make sure there is appropriate equipment at the pool. This include fencing, a lockable safety cover, proper drain covers to avoid entrapments, and lifesaving equipment such as life rings and a reaching pole.
  • Be alert. Never leave children unattended in a pool or spa; always watch children closely around all bodies of water; teach children basic water safety tips; and keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.
  • Make water safety skills a priority. Every family member should know how to swim and should learn CPR once old enough.

The owners of public pools, local swimming areas, spas, and similar venues are obligated to keep their premises in safe conditions before allowing the public to use their facilities. If they do not, they may be held responsible for injuries and deaths that occur. These are very painful cases. If you believe your family has a wrongful death claim, make an appointment to speak with us to assess the situation and your options. Call Friedman and Martin at 912-232-8500.