In Part 1 of Unsupervised Swimming Pools Account for High Number of Drowning Accidents the Shaked Law Blog provided readers with helpful tips and fact-based information for maintaining pool safety year-round. We also discussed the most important information to know if you or a loved one become the victim of a drowning accident. To refresh, we established the importance of being prepared for any activity, year-round, that will take place in or around water. We stressed how especially important this is if you're the adult hosting the gathering in a private residence.
In Part 2 of Unsupervised Swimming Pools Account for High Number of Drowning Accidents the Shaked Law Blog will seek to provide readers with even more can't-miss information. We'll cover a wide range of topics from the perspective of an experienced Personal Injury attorney who understands wrongful death cases on a personal level, and who has recovered millions of dollars in damages for clients who have endured these tragic events.
We'll cover topics related to "social host liability" and how "premises liability" can factor into a drowning accident claim, and we'll go in-depth about the differences you must know when it comes to public and private swimming pools. The answers to these questions will provide an extensive look at yet another topic the insurance company doesn't want those who have suffered a wrongful death to find out. The insurance company's only goal is to keep money in their pockets, and away from the victims and families who rightfully deserve to be compensated for their loss.
The seriousness of being a social host
One of the first things a Personal Injury attorney will dive into when presented with an accidental drowning claim is the subject of "social host liability". The laws surrounding this type of liability, as well as accidental drownings are complex at best; it bears repeating that knowing how to prevent drowning accidents from occurring in the first place should be the responsibility of the homeowner. If the homeowner has not proven to be able to maintain a safe home for minors, they could be held liable for accidents and any wrongful death that occurs on their property.
A social host is also responsible for their property while hosting guests of any age. This is what's called "premises liability" and while we've discussed this topic at-length on the Shaked Law Blog, let's briefly look at what premises liability means in the context of a party or gathering in a private residence.
Much like negligent security, it's important to understand that if a property owner knows of a problem (in the case of negligent security, this would be the crime rate in the area they own their property), and fail to rectify that problem, they are liable for any accidents that occur as a result of this failure. Similarly, if a homeowner recognizes that they do not have a gated pool area "because they can't afford to install one at the moment", but chooses to host a gathering on their property anyway, they are making themselves vulnerable to being held liable in a court of law, should a wrongful death occur.
So, in the case of a drowning accident that takes place in a private residence, the homeowner–or "social host"–could be held liable for knowing their property was unsafe but choosing to host a gathering there regardless. Rather than choosing to host the gathering elsewhere, the property owner (in this case also known as the social host) left the safety of minors up in the air. A "nothing could possibly go wrong!" attitude is not only careless, but makes the homeowner vulnerable to legal action should a tragedy occur on their property.
Parents who leave their children with a relative or a trusted family friend expect the minors to be in an environment with all available safety measures in place. Homeowners who fail to gate their pool area and host minors on the property, only to witness a preventable drowning accident occur can be held liable on several factors:
- Would the minor have still ended up in the water if there had been a fence surrounding the pool?
- Was the pool securely gated? This point does not relieve the homeowner of liability or responsibility for wrongful death! Even if the homeowner installed a gate with good intentions, their failure to lock or latch it could still lead to the drowning death of a minor.
- Was there supervision present for minors on the property? This factor also does not relieve the homeowner of liability or responsibility for a wrongful death due to drowning! Children are fast, adults look down at their phones or turn around to talk to another adult, and tragedy strikes. Proving the homeowner had adequate supervision to watch the children ties into locking or latching the gate. An adult that was paying full attention to the safety of the children would witness any attempt to slip past the gate.
Your rights must be protected after tragic loss
A Personal Injury attorney who takes on claim surrounding a drowning accident that ended in wrongful death must be experienced in these types of cases. As with any wrongful death, the deceased cannot speak for themselves anymore. They cannot provide the most accurate account of what occurred for the judge. Therefore, the grieving family is left to try and piece the tragedy together. This can be a difficult situation for a family to be in, and the Personal Injury attorney must be compassionate with the client, but aggressive in seeking justice on their behalf. To ease the burden on a family, the attorney will do as much as possible to simplify the mechanics of the case.
After a tragedy, there are several things that must occur immediately to better establish the severity of the accident and make for more successful recovery of damages at the conclusion of the case.
There is no dollar amount for loss of life, but grieving families deserve to be compensated
The checklist that surviving family members should be familiar with includes, but is not limited to:
- Was a police report filed immediately following the accident that caused the death? Obtain copies of all reports from local law enforcement.
- Photos and recordings (video and audio) of where the drowning accident occurred are important evidence that must not be forgotten. Photos can provide accurate depictions of negligence that witnesses may not be able to recall from memory. While it's difficult for a grieving family to relive the wrongful death, an experienced Personal Injury attorney will do his or her best to obtain these records without causing further upset to the grief-stricken family members.
- Expert testimony from any doctors who examined the deceased prior to death and the medical examiner or coroner who performed an autopsy can be invaluable to the outcome of the case. There is no dollar amount that can be placed on a human life, but expert testimony can prove the victim suffered, and the grieving family has every right to be compensated to the fullest extent of the law.
- Witness statements, witness reports from the scene of the drowning, and any witnesses that were present when the wrongful death occurred should come forward and speak with the family's attorney as soon as legal counsel requests their statements.
Every wrongful death claim is different in nature. Only a trusted board certified civil trial attorney and their legal team of seasoned experts can fully explain the laws surrounding each individual case. After a wrongful death due to the negligence of a social host who failed to install proper security measures, it's the surviving family's right to seek full compensation for their loss. While the insurance company may try to convince them that they're not entitled to damages, that is simply not the case.
A homeowner hosting minors on their property must understand their liability in doing so, and refrain from doing so if they do not think they can provide the necessary safety measures needed for a safe and supervised gathering.