Very few things transform fun into disaster more completely, or more quickly, than a swimming pool drowning or related injury. The serious injury rate in these instances is almost ten times higher than the serious injury rate in car wrecks, falls, and other unintentional injuries.
These serious injuries typically include brain injuries. It only takes a few moments below the waves to cause such an injury. At best, these victims often face developmental delays and memory issues. At worst, they may experience a complete loss of function (a persistent vegitative state). The medical bills alone often exceed $100,000 in these situations.
Due to the serious nature of these injuries, a Lexington personal injury attorney is often able to obtain substantial compensation for victims. This compensation typically includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Kinds of Injuries
Most swimming pool injury victims are young children. They are highly vulnerable to injury, and once they get in trouble, they usually cannot get out of it. Some specific injuries include:
- Drowning: Not even the kid’s area is completely safe. A child can drown in as little as two inches of water. Furthermore, malfunctioning equipment can push or pull even the strongest swimmers under the water. More on this point below.
- Poisoning: When the weather heats up, swimming pool water warms up as well. That warmth and moisture allows dangerous bacteria to grow and spread. These bacterial infections often cause fatal or near-fatal anaphylactic reactions.
- Burns: Chlorine and other pool cleaning chemicals are highly toxic. If the level is too high, chlorine causes severe chemical burns. Chlorine gas seriously wounded many soldiers in World War I, and it could do the same thing to your child.
Surprisingly, these injuries often occur in crowded pools. Most caregivers assume someone else is watching the child, so they let their guard down. Other swimming pool injuries happen when children sneak into pools. Frequently, if these victims go under the water, no one finds them for quite some time.
Depending on the facts of the case, a Lexington personal injury attorney has several legal options. In this context, liability issues are rather complex, so fasten your seat belts.
Negligence is an owner’s lack of care. The required level of care usually depends on the relationship between the owner and victim. There are three basic levels:
- Invitee (victim has permission to swim and the victim’s presence benefits the owner in some way),
- Licensee (permission but no benefit), and
- Trespasser (no permission and no benefit).
A few swimming pool drowning victims are licensees. But the vast majority are invitees or trespassers.
If the victim was an invitee, the swimming pool owner had a duty of reasonable care. The owner must take steps to ensure guest safety and frequently inspect the pool to ensure these standards are maintained. If the owner breaches this duty and does not properly maintain the pool or watch guests, the owner is liable for damages.
Typically, if the victim was a trespasser, there is no legal duty. Those stories of injured burglars who sue homeowners are usually urban myths. Some exceptions, like the attractive nuisance doctrine, protect child victims.
Additionally, victim/plaintiffs must prove the owner knew, or should have known, about the dangerous hazard. This evidence could be direct or circumstantial. Victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Negligence Per Se
Lexington and other municipalities typically have swimming pool safety ordinances. These local laws include requirements like:
- An unclimbable fence or other barrier surrounding the pool,
- A self-latching gate which operates from the pool side,
- Alarms on any doors or windows which open directly to the pool area, and
- Lifesaving equipment near the water.
Commercial pools, like hotel and apartment complex pools, often must meet standards that are even more strict.
If an owner violates a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury, the owner could be responsible for damages as a matter of law. There’s no need to establish a lack of care.
Sometimes, the problem is not the owner’s lack of care, but the manufacturer’s responsibility. If the pump is not working properly, excess water pressure could force swimmers under the water. Or, if the drain is not working right, it could suck swimmers under the waves. Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable for:
- Design defects and
- Manufacturing defects.
Sometimes, these areas overlap. For example, the owner’s negligence might be in failing to properly maintain pool equipment.
Insurance company defenses in swimming pool injury cases include comparative fault and assumption of the risk. Comparative fault shifts part of the blame from the owner to the victim or the victim’s family. Lack of supervision is a common fact. Assumption of the risk usually involves a “Swim At Your Own Risk” or other warning signs. These signs make it more difficult, but not impossible, to establish liability.
Swimming pool drowning claims are quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.