Swimming pools provide a great way to beat the Southern California heat. Most of the time, you can swim and enjoy yourself without incident. Unfortunately, however, nine people drown in the United States every day! In fact, drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children aged 1-14. For each death, there are up to four non-fatal incidents that are serious enough that the victim requires hospitalization.
When a day at the pool results in accident, injury or death, you may wonder who is at fault and whether you may be able to receive compensation to help pay your medical bills and other expenses. Each case is different, and a Southern California injury attorney can advise you on the merits of taking legal action if you or a loved one has been injured in a swimming pool accident.
Liability for swimming pool accidents typically depends on the premises liability law of your state. In California, state law requires property owners to take reasonable care toward any person entering their properties. California premises liability lawsuits typically stem from a property owner who failed to ensure guest safety, such as failing to install fencing or post warning signs around the pool. Property owners also must ensure pools are properly supervised and receive routine, required maintenance.
In some cases, you may be responsible for your own injuries. If, for example, you were engaging in horseplay and suffered an injury as a result, the fault may be your own. However, the owner or operator of the pool may be liable if you became injured because the pool area was improperly maintained. Sometimes liability is shared, and you as well as another party are legally responsible for your injuries.
Since a pool is considered part of the property it is located on, premises liability rules will typically apply in a pool injury lawsuit. “Premises liability” is the short-hand term for the set of laws used to determine who (if anyone) is liable when a particular condition or use of a building, land or other premises causes an injury.
If premises liability is the rule that will apply, the law will next determine what type of “entrant” used the facility. Invitees are those that paid to use the pool, which is typically the case of a patron that visited a public pool. Licensees are usually referred to as guests that were invited to use a private pool. The third category of entrants is trespassers and they are not typically covered under premises liability laws. The possible exception might be a young child who got into the pool because there were not sufficient barriers to keep him safely out, such as fences or alarms.
Patrons of pools that are open to the public, whether for a fee or free of charge, are usually classified as “invitees.” Pool owners are under a duty to do a reasonable job maintaining and repairing the pool so that invitees are not injured. Social guests using a pool on private property are usually classified as “licensees.” Pool owners are under a duty to warn licensees of dangers that are not obvious to the average person. A pool owner does not owe a trespasser a duty of care, other than to refrain from causing the trespasser intentional harm. A major exception to this rule is when the trespasser is a child.
When the accident occurs in a public pool or a pool owned by a private club, product liability and negligence may also be factors in a pool accident. Product liability may be cited if there was an actual problem with the pool or pool equipment that contributed to the accident. Negligence refers to an action that may have contributed to the accident. This could apply to someone that built or serviced the pool or employees of the pool that are responsible for ensuring the safety of patrons.
Generally, the owner and operator of a public pool are responsible for maintaining safe premises for guests who have permission to be on the property. A public pool owner can be held liable for failing to provide emergency safety equipment at a public pool if an invitee is injured. A public pool owner may also be held liable for broken equipment at the pool or a lack of adequate supervision or lifeguards. If a particular type of equipment or supervision is required by law, and the lack of them causes an accident, an inference of negligence may be created in certain states that follow the doctrine of negligence per se.
In addition to keeping a public pool safe and complying with state and federal regulations, a public pool owner may need to warn invitees of any hidden dangers. For example, if it is not obvious that a pool is too shallow for diving, an owner may be liable for failing to warn when an invitee is injured.
Homeowners can be held responsible for injuries that take place in and around their pools. They are responsible for creating a safe environment for their guests as well as taking steps to keep people from trespassing on their property and becoming injured in their pool. Since a pool can create what is legally known as an “attractive nuisance,” a homeowner should take steps to secure their pool behind a four-sided fence and have alarms and other safety measures in place. This can prevent children from coming into the pool area without permission and suffering an injury.
In states that follow the attractive nuisance doctrine, both public pool owners and private pool owners must keep a pool safe from being accessed by young children who are not supervised, since they do not understand the danger of drowning. The pool owner will need to erect a fence or other barrier to keep young children from falling into it.
Most swimming pool-related premises liability claims involve inadequate pool maintenance or supervision. The California Pool Safety Act requires pool owners to take reasonable safety precautions for guests invited to the property. Most wrongful death and personal injury victims file lawsuits alleging the property owner failed to ensure safety for guests.
A property owner can be held liable for:
Approximately 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day in the US according to the CDC. Roughly 20% of these people are children under the age of 14.
Of course, swimming accidents don’t always end in death. For every person who dies from drowning, 5 people receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. These injuries range from minor to severe and include:
The answer depends on the cause of your injury and the circumstances of your accident. As a general rule, the more evidence your attorney has to prove liability and the stronger it is, the less likely the opposing party or insurance company will be to dispute your claim.
This is why it’s so important to hire a lawyer who has the right experience to handle your case. An attorney who is familiar with swimming pool accident claims will know the types of evidence to gather and how to approach the investigation.
Depending on the facts surrounding your case, the following evidence may help your lawyer prove liability:
At the Law Offices of Brent A. Duque, we maintain a staff of a highly professional, knowledgeable, aggressive and successful Premises Liability Attorneys who represent injured people through our offices all across Southern California. Contact us today at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.
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