Pools and summer go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, everyone knows that pool risks are also important to keep in mind. The risks associated with pools don’t just involve fatalities, but also serious injuries.
Furthermore, most of these risks apply not only to pools, but to other water features like hot tubs, splash pads, large inside tubs, and amusement parks. In addition to water safety and emergency procedures, you should know about your legal rights in the event of a pool accident. Learn about liability for injuries that happen in a swimming pool.
Why Are Pools So Dangerous?
Sobering statistics show that drowning is the second most common cause of unintentional death in children aged 1 to 14. Drowning is the first most common cause of death in children between the ages of one to four. For every one child that dies, four more children must receive emergency treatment for a pool-related accident.
Pool safety is usually taught from a very young age, but that will never eliminate the serious risk that comes along with pools and other water attractions. Some of the features that make these spots more dangerous than others include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Recreational water illnesses
- Slip and fall injuries
- Disembowelment from suction lines and drains
More Than a Risk for Drowning
Additionally, while drowning is usually the first type of pool risk that comes to mind, there are also many other dangers associated with pools like:
- Lack of lifeguards or other supervision
- Wet decks and surfaces
- Chemical storage and exposure
- Electrical accidents
- Diving boards and pool slides
- Pool toys
- Lack of emergency equipment
- Pool and hot tub covers
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What Are My Legal Options After a Pool Accident?
Because pool accidents are unfortunately common, it’s important to know your rights. If the pool is liable, you may have a claim for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
- Wrongful death
- A family’s claim for loss of companionship or consortium
The legal theories behind your claim will depend on whether the site where the accident occurred was a public or private pool.
Public Pool Accidents
Public pools are located on public property and are managed by the government or one of its subdivisions such as parks and recreation. There are usually state and federal laws that apply to public pools and how they must operate. While premise liability can come into play, many public pool claims focus on negligent supervision or the fact that the pool violated a state or federal law.
Claims against public pools can be particularly complex because of the laws that apply to lawsuits against government entities, including:
- Shortened times to file a claim
- Notice requirements
- Damage caps
Talking with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you make sure your rights are protected if you’ve been impacted by an accident at a public pool.
Private Pool Accidents
In contrast, private pools are owned by individuals or companies. Private pools may be owned by:
- Private homeowners
- Country clubs
- Amusement parks
Some accidents may be caused by the actions of the pool employees or guests, such as a claim for negligent supervision. In these cases, normal tort law governing negligence claims will apply.
Any accident that is the result of something about the pool or the surrounding area, as opposed to the actions of someone, will fall under premise liability. While the laws of premise liability vary from state to state, there is a general framework.
If you experienced an accident at a private pool and wish to seek compensation, you have to prove:
- The pool owner owed you a duty of reasonable care
- That duty of care was breached
- The breach of duty resulted in your injuries
- You suffered damages from the injury
An experienced attorney can help you with this process.
Most states will look at the type of guest that was injured, which includes trespassers, licensees, and invitees. Trespassers have no permission to be on the land. Licensees are there with the owner’s permission. Invitees are there for the owner’s financial benefit, such as guests at a hotel with a swimming pool.
The highest duty is owed to invitees, typically no duty is owed to trespassers, and the duty owed to licensees is somewhere in the middle. The owner’s duty is usually to keep the pool in a reasonably safe condition and to warn guests of unreasonable dangers.
Instead of classifying guests into three types, some states will simply look at all of the circumstances to see if the pool was unreasonably dangerous and whether the owner fulfilled their duty to warn guests of unsafe conditions. A personal injury lawyer can help you evaluate your claim under the laws of your state.
What If There Is a “Not Responsible for Accidents” Sign?
This is usually one factor a court will consider when determining whether a condition was unreasonably safe: clear signage. For example, a very obvious sign that says “not responsible for accidents” just below “no lifeguard on duty” might help an owner escape liability for drowning accidents.
However, if there are other unreasonably dangerous conditions, such as a diving board in a shallow pool, that sign won’t mean as much. Like most things in law, it depends on the specific case.
What Is an Attractive Nuisance?
There is one exception to the general rule that pool owners do not owe a duty to trespassers and that has to do with child trespassers. Because children may not understand all the dangers of a pool, owners must try to protect child trespassers against unreasonable risks of harm.
This duty is called the “Attractive Nuisance Doctrine,” and it applies to artificial creations, not natural water features, such as creeks. Under this doctrine, owners must:
- Know or should have known of an unreasonably dangerous condition
- Know that children may be attracted to an area that poses an attractive nuisance
- Know that the condition could cause children harm
Courts will look at all the circumstances surrounding an accident to see if the owner fulfilled their duty under attractive nuisance laws.
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What to Do After a Pool Accident?
If there is an accident at a pool, first ensure that everyone is safe from harm and injuries are treated. Next, you should:
- Contact the local authorities and file an incident report
- Gather names and contact information of any witnesses
- Take pictures of the accident scene, including any signage or injuries
- Avoid apologizing or admitting fault for the accident
- Contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney
If you or a loved one suffered an accident involving a pool, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. If you are hesitating because the accident happened at a friend’s private pool, rest assured that in all likelihood, their insurance company will be the one to repay your losses.
How Long Do You Have to Act After a Pool Accident?
Your pool accident is subject to a statute of limitations. Depending on the state where your incident occurred, you may not have long to litigate.
Many states allow you to file an accident claim one to two years after the date of an accident. However, some states will have a shorter statute of limitations. If you let this time pass, you will be barred from taking legal action.
Should You Hire a Swimming Pool Accident Lawyer?
You may benefit from legal assistance whether you decide to file a lawsuit or an insurance claim to reimburse you for your injuries following a pool accident. The insurance company may not offer you a settlement sufficient to compensate you for your financial losses. A lawyer can negotiate on your behalf for the settlement you deserve.
You may want to at least consult with a lawyer if:
- You suffered severe injuries in the accident
- Someone died in the pool accident
- You are unsure of your rights
- You do not know who is liable for damages
- You are unfamiliar with state laws that apply to your case
- You want legal guidance for your situation
You may decide to hire a legal representative simply because you have your hands full and want your advocate to handle the legal side of things while you focus on more important matters.
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