Understanding Who is Liable in Drownings and Pool-Related Injuries

Understanding Who is Liable in Drownings and Pool-Related InjuriesIn many of our homes, accessible to almost anybody who comes in, is a condition that could be considered inherently dangerous and even deadly to those unprepared for it. We are referring to residential pools, which not only present a drowning danger, but often are left unsupervised and not fenced off.

Anyone from young children to adults who can not swim, to those who may have had too much to drink and end up in a pool can succumb to drowning.

Of course, not every drowning in every pool is the result of negligence. Understanding the duties and obligations of pool owners, and when a pool owner may be liable for drowning-related injuries, can help you determine whether someone else has full or partial responsibility for a pool-related catastrophe.

Children and Drowning

One of the big questions when it comes to pool liability, is the age of the victim. Too often, adults allow their pools to serve as a makeshift babysitter, leaving kids to play in the pool area with insufficient supervision.

Even the best child swimmer is still a child, and pool owners who do not supervise children around the pool can be liable for drowning injuries. Children are also prone to roughhousing, running, or careless diving in a pool, which can lead to the dangerous combination of falling into pools and hitting heads on pool ledges or floors.

While careless, this kind of play is completely foreseeable in young children. As such, pool owners should not be permitted to “blame” children for their own injuries when they happen because of roughhousing or overactive play. Rather, pool owners have an obligation to not just supervise children’s activities, but to stop any kind of play that could result in injury.

Injuries Around the Pool

Just as young children can fall into a pool when roughhousing, adults can fall into pools when areas around the pool are not properly maintained. An adult who slips into the pool may not be able to swim, or may be knocked unconscious by the impact of a body part on the cement as they are falling.

You may notice from personal experience that some pool areas are naturally slippery; the flooring may be of a texture that lowers friction when in contact with water, or else pavement or cement may be uneven or cracked, creating dangerous raised lips. In many cases, items such as pool or grill equipment may be laying about, creating obstacles just waiting or someone to trip over and end up in the water.

Remember that pool areas are not “supposed to be slippery” or dangerous. If someone is injured by falling into a pool, the events could have something to do with the pool area.

Florida’s Pool Safety Laws

Florida has enacted laws to strengthen the safety of residential pools. While violating the laws does not automatically create a cause of action for injury, showing the laws were violated can go a long way to showing a pool owner was negligent.

Florida law provides that homes with pools must have one of the following:

  • A pool barrier
  • An approved pool cover
  • Alarms on doors leading from the home to the pool area
  • Self-latching or self-closing devices on doors going from the home to the pool area

With respect to pool barriers, they must be at least 4 feet high with no openings that young children could climb on, through, or around, and placed around the perimeter of the pool. The barrier needs to surround the pool, but also leave some room so that someone who manages to get over around or through it does not fall immediately into the pool.

Gates that access pools also have strict requirements. They must open away from the pool and have self-latching devices. The latch has to be located on the pool side, preventing children from opening them from the outside.

For those with above-ground pools, ladders or steps accessing the pools must also be secured and inaccessible to young children.

Unfortunately, the laws are not applicable to public pools, only private, residential pools. Many private pools are built on the cheap, or in efforts to skirt the laws, and may not be up to these codes. Families of drowning victims should make a full inquiry into whether pool owners have complied with these requirements. 

Public Pools or Beaches

There is generally no requirement for a public pool to provide lifeguards, nor for a municipality to provide any at a beach, and many do not. Most will post warnings stating that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Entities that do have lifeguards are under an obligation to train them properly, make sure they are licensed and fit to be a lifeguard, and provide proper equipment to assist them in aiding those in danger of drowning.

In some cases, where hotels offer beach areas to their guests, the establishments will have to take basic safety precautions as to that beach area, which may include posting warnings about dangerous conditions or providing access to first aid equipment.

Pool areas can be dangerous to all ages and to those of all swimming levels. If you or someone you know has been injured in or around a residential or public pool, call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your case.