Who becomes liable in the event of drowning accident that results in a wrongful death, and what steps can families take to prevent drowning accidents from ever occurring in the first place? As summer approaches South Florida in a matter of days, no one wants to think about the loss of a loved one amidst vacation and much needed relaxation. It’s devastating to think that something as enjoyable as a summer vacation, when families are enjoying the beautiful South Florida weather, can turn tragic due to only seconds of another’s negligence.
Who becomes liable for accidental drowning accidents?
When the family of a victim (especially that of a minor) who passed away as a result of an accidental drowning retains a Personal Injury lawyer and proceeds with a wrongful death lawsuit, this is most likely due to the fact another person caused the drowning to occur (lack of supervision, broken swimming pool gate, malfunctioning or complete lack of pool alarm). In a public setting, whoever is responsible for maintaining the safety of the pool, pool operation, and pool maintenance may be liable for the accident in question. If the drowning occurred at a private residence, such as a friend or family member’s home it may be their lack of action in the seconds leading up to the drowning death that may leave them liable.
What happens, legally, after an accidental drowning accident?
When a family member drowns (especially a minor), there is no dollar amount that can amount to their life. However, unpaid medical bills and final expenses must be paid, and the family may be entitled to compensation for their loss, pain and suffering, and financial as well as mental anguish. When the negligent behavior of another person causes a preventable drowning simply because precautions were not in place prior to use of the swimming pool, the victim’s family may proceed with litigation in order to determine whether they’re entitled to compensation.
What duty of care do public swimming pools have?
Whose responsibility is it to maintain the upkeep and safety measures at a public swimming facility? The employer, usually the city, must be certain they’ve employed responsible, well-intentioned, certified employees at the facility. When “No Diving” and “No Running” signs are in place, pool alarms are tested regularly to ensure their effectiveness, and certified lifeguards are on duty during business hours, accidents can be prevented. For the public, it’s our duty to be aware of, and follow directions of signs that warn us never to dive or run, and not to swim without a lifeguard on duty.
The question then arises, what happens when there is a certified lifeguard on duty and someone still becomes the victim of an accidental drowning? Who, in these cases, becomes liable for the drowning accident?
Lifeguards that work at a public swimming facility are required by both state and federal laws to uphold specific certification requirements as well as meet or surpass a lifeguarding exam to be able to maintain employment. If a lifeguard is found to have acted recklessly (i.e. failed to maintain their credentials, came to work with an injury that prevented them from performing their duties simply because they “needed a paycheck” but disregarded the duty of care required of them) and a drowning occurred as a result, the lifeguard becomes liable for the drowning death.
The same standard of care applies to pool maintenance and upkeep. If lack of pool upkeep, maintenance, or standards or state or federal pool safety requirements are not met or exceeded, and a drowning accident occurs, the public pool and the employees hired to perform these duties may be liable for any drowning accidents or other injuries sustained by a member of the public while swimming or on pool grounds.
What are other causes of accidental drowning deaths?
Drowning accidents often involve on-the-water activities, though it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when we discuss what causes accidental drownings. Jet skis, improperly captained boats, and water skis used by inexperienced riders, are some of the leading causes of drowning accidents resulting in wrongful deaths. Due to someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior on the water, a jet ski may be struck by a boat, severely injuring the skier and causing them to drown as a result. In this instance, the individual behind the wheel of the boat may be legally responsible for causing the victim injury and their subsequent drowning. Depending on the circumstances of the case, reckless or negligent behavior can hold the boat owner liable for a wrongful death.
In more extreme cases (for example, operating a boat, jet ski, or other vehicle on the water while under the influence) liability may also fall outside of civil court proceedings, and the liable party may face additional criminal charges or manslaughter.
Only a Board Certified lawyer knows how to aptly apply the laws in these situations on behalf of a family who has suffered a wrongful death of any kind, including accidental drowning. When a family loses a loved due to a drowning accidents, it’s extremely important that they make every effort to contact a Board Certified lawyer with years of drowning accident experience to their name; both at trial and through mediation. The Statute of Limitations will vary by state, but if a family exceeds it the judge will dismiss even the most tragic of cases, despite their entitlement to compensation.
Public safety should be a priority
The federal government has enacted detailed requirements for public pool operators. There are certain standards that must be met before anyone can open a swimming facility for use by the public. Under federal law, at minimum, those who wish to operate a public swimming pool are required to install drain covers that prevent suction. Older model drain covers have now been proven to be less of a deterrent for children, and children have become trapped, drowning as a result of the strong suction. Updated drain models have prevented numerous suction-related deaths of minors. State laws are also beginning to adopt these requirements of public swimming pools as well, and it’s best to be ahead of the game when it comes to safety.
Unfortunately, while many public pools have upgraded their drainage system to accommodate federal and state regulations, some don’t care, lack the oversight, or attempt to avoid the expense of doing so. If a drowning death occurs in swimming pool that can be proven to have not met state or federal requirements, the violation that resulted in the death can potentially be used to substantiate a wrongful death lawsuit.