The truth is that drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the lack of swimming ability is a big cause for drowning, negligent pool owners also contribute. Without close supervision, clear signage, pool fencing and alcohol restrictions, pool owners are asking for an accident to happen.
Avoid Unsupervised Access to Water
Children ages 1-4 are among people at risk of drowning. A drowning child often slips silently beneath the surface without bobbing up and down, gasping for air or waving arms. To avoid this risk:
- Private pools should include a four-foot high fence with latching gates to avoid children running into the water.
- Children should always wear life jackets. Air-filled or foam toys are not recommended as replacements for life jackets.
- Pool areas should remain clean of toys after use to avoid children being drawn to an unsupervised pool area.
Keep a Close Eye
Pool safety is a serious responsibility and a lifeguard or responsible adult should be closely supervising while a pool is in use. Obstructions to the water surface can cause bodies underwater to disappear, for this reason the CDC emphasizes the importance of frequently standing at the edge of the pool to get a closer look at the bottom floor. To see how quickly a person can disappear from view in a pool, watch this video.
Alcohol is a big contributor to teen and adult drowning incidents every year. Alcohol has the ability to:
- Impair judgment
- Distort perception of risk
- Reduce coordination
- Impair quick reaction responses vital for survival
- Reduce the effectiveness of CPR should you need it
Real Life Case
A six-year-old kindergarten student drowned at her father’s apartment complex pool during a summer 2011 family outing in Richmond, Va. An aunt testified that when she last saw the girl, she was holding on to the side of the swimming pool kicking her feet. The lifeguard was sitting in a lawn chair 20 feet away from the pool — a position that did not allow the lifeguard to see the entire pool.
The child, who could not swim, went into the deep end of the pool and disappeared. By the time she was spotted by her older sister, she had been submerged for five to 10 minutes.
The girl’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the apartment owners and the pool management company that supplied the lifeguard. Under Virginia law, the owner and manager of the swimming pool have a legal duty — which they cannot delegate to family of a swimmer — to maintain safety in the pool. After extensive discovery, they settled the case for $1.5 million, plus medical and funeral expenses.
Swimming pool management companies that provide lifeguards should have at least $20 million insurance limits, according to Carolina Pool Management. “Recent swimming pool lawsuits include $14 million and $16 million judgments,” the company says. “We simply recognize that a catastrophic event can happen anywhere, at any time, even at the best-run pools.”
Know that proactive safety measures are the best way to prevent water accidents. However, no matter how safe your pool or lake area is, accidents can happen. In the event that a water accident occurs due to negligence, contact an attorney for a consult to explore your options.