No one wants to think about the loss of a loved one, especially when it’s due to something such as an avoidable accidental drowning, and a minor child loses their life. Due to lack of supervision, it’s devastating to think that something as enjoyable as spring break or a summer vacation can turn tragic in an instant.
Who becomes liable after a drowning accident? What safety measures can the public take to prevent drowning accidents involving minors and the elderly from transpiring in the first place?
Who is liable for a drowning accident?
When the family of a victim who passed away as a result of an accidental drowning files a wrongful death lawsuit, this is probably due to another person’s negligence in causing the accident to occur in the first place. The negligent party is known as “liable”. Whoever is responsible for pool upkeep, maintenance, operations, and hiring lifeguards (in a public pool setting such as YMCA or other facility frequented by the public) may be liable for the accident in question. It may also be their lack of action in the moments leading up to the drowning for which they become liable for the death that occurred.
Who is entitled to compensation after an accidental drowning?
When a beloved family member drowns, especially a minor, there is no dollar amount that can be put on a life cut short so unnecessarily. However, medical bills and funeral expenses can add up, and families may be entitled to compensation for their loss in order to ease such financial burdens. When someone else’s negligence causes a drowning accident, the family of the victim be it a minor or an adult, may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is duty of care in preventing drowning accidents?
Who is responsible at a public pool? Those who utilize public swimming facilities should be careful to take note of signs that warn not to swim without a lifeguard on duty (this is known as “swimming at your own risk”). However, what happens when there is a lifeguard on duty and someone still suffers a drowning accident?
One example of a party that may be held liable in the event of a drowning are employed lifeguards. Lifeguards that work at a public pool facility are required to maintain and re-certify requirements each year, as well as meet or exceed a lifeguarding exam in order to maintain their employment. If a lifeguard is found to have acted negligently and someone drowned as a result, the lifeguard may be held liable for the death in question if litigation is pursued.
A similar standard of care applies to pool upkeep (fixing cracked cement, broken pool alarms, etc). If lack of pool upkeep or standards of pool safety are not upheld according to Florida law (or the law in the state of which the accident occurred), the facility and those hired to maintain the pool may be liable for any accidents sustained by the public while in the pool.
What are other causes of accidental drowning?
Drowning accidents often involve other activities on the water as well. Jet skis and water skis are one of the leading causes of wrongful death in large bodies of water; when this equipment strikes a jetty such as the ones found on South Florida’s beaches, accidents and even fatalities have been known to occur.
Due to someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior out on the water, a jet ski may be struck by a boat. This can cause TBI, Spinal Cord Injury, and even death in the event of the skier sustaining an injury in which they are unable to get out of the water safely. Sometimes, a boater may be legally responsible for causing those they struck to suffer an accidental drowning or life-threatening injuries. Depending on the circumstances this can hold the boater liable for civil liability or a wrongful death.
(In more extreme cases [i.e. operating a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol] criminal charges or manslaughter may apply.)
How is the safety of the public protected?
The federal government has enacted requirements for pool operators such as those employed to maintain and upkeep YMCA facilities and other facilities in which a pool is offered to the public. There are specific requirements that must be met before a swimming pool can be opened to the public, as opposed to inviting friends and family over (with safety precautions) to a private residence to swim.
Under Florida state law, and federal law, anyone operating a public swimming pool is required to install drain covers that prevent suction. Older style drain covers are now thought to be less of a deterrent for children becoming trapped as a result of the strong suction and their small stature. Newer, updated drains have already helped to prevent numerous drain suction-related accidents. State laws are now beginning to adopt these requirements for the operation of public swimming pools as well.
Unfortunately, while many public pools have upgraded their drainage system to accommodate these new safety regulations, some lack the oversight or attempt to avoid the cost of doing so. This can lead to an extremely tragic drowning situation in the long run, as well as costly legal troubles. If a drowning accident occurs in pool that has not met the federal requirements (and there is proof of this lack of duty of care), the violation can be used to substantiate a wrongful death lawsuit.
Take precaution, be prepared, and prevent tragedies
Only a Board Certified lawyer knows how to apply the laws in the event of drowning accidents, especially those in which a minor was involved. Each drowning accident is tragic, but the litigation that may surround seeing such cases to verdict are different and should be treated individually with an ethical, compassionate approach to justice. After the loss of a loved one in a drowning accident, it’s highly recommended that family members of the deceased contact a Board Certified accident lawyer that has seen these cases to successful verdict. The Statute of Limitations will vary by state, but if exceeding it guarantees the judge will dismiss a claim–no matter how tragic.