Swimming Pool Accidents—Who is Liable?
In 2013, at least 202 children drowned in a swimming pool or spa in the United States between Memorial Day and Labor Day. These accidents happen far too often, no matter the number. While children should never be left unattended near the water, especially if they are not strong swimmers, pool owners also have a responsibility to prevent drownings, and they can be held responsible when they don’t.
A newly released survey from the Red Cross indicates that just four in ten parents of children between the ages of 4 and 17 report their child is able to perform the five basic swimming skills that make them safe in the water. Despite this, 92 percent say their child is likely to participate in water activities over the summer months.
While parents have a huge responsibility to keep their children safe near pools and bodies of water, they aren’t alone in this responsibility. Under Georgia premises liability laws, homeowners and swimming pool owners share in the duty to protect them from harm.
Premises liability laws protect people who are injured or even killed while they are on someone else’s property.
Georgia law says that when a property owner or renter, by express or implied invitation, leads others to come onto his property, the owner or manager is legally responsible for harmful injuries resulting from that person’s failure to maintain the area in a safe condition using ordinary care (the Georgia standard for negligence). When this occurs, a claim may be brought against the homeowner, landlord, business franchise, property manager, retailer, or government entity that failed to keep the property safe.
In the case of private swimming pools, this responsibility largely rests on the homeowner.
Among the requirements for homeowners to keep their swimming pools safe is the need to erect a fence or barrier to keep unsupervised people and trespassers out. These fences are largely in the interest of preventing curious young children from having unsupervised access to the pool.
In addition to a barrier, the pool owner could be held responsible for:
- Inadequate child supervision
- Pool drain entrapment
- Inadequate signs or markings about hazards
- Failure to follow drowning prevention protocol
Deadly drownings aren’t the only swimming pool accidents that pool owners can be held responsible for. Serious injuries can occur in and around the pool—personal injuries that require hospitalization and expensive treatments. Those may include:
- Spinal injuries
- Brain injuries
- Neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Non-fatal drowning
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual report indicates the youngest among us are the most at risk of accidental drowning. It is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4, and is the second leading cause of death in children ages 5 to 14.
Owning a swimming pool is a major responsibility, especially in homes or neighborhoods where children are present. For both parents and homeowners, safety should be a top concern when children are in or around the water.
- Never leave children unattended in or around the swimming pool.
- If you have to step away, designate someone to supervise the children.
- Learn how to swim.
- Ensure your children also know how to swim.
- Take a basic CPR class if you plan on spending significant time around the water.
- Keep children from diving down to drains and other openings.
We are in the midst of the riskiest time of year for tragic drowning accidents. Do what you can to keep your children safe, and hold those accountable who put them at undue risk.
Should you like to learn more about who is responsible in a swimming pool accident or what your rights are, call us for a free consultation.