Articles Posted in Swimming Pool & Aquatic Injuries

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In Jacksonville, Florida and other cites, swimming parties are quite common.  However, not every swimming party goes through the formality of assigning a “Lifeguard” and “Water Watchers”.  This does not mean that every swimming party should have a trained and certified Lifeguard; however, it would be ideal to have a trained Lifeguard is one is available.  For purposes of this article, let’s designate the Lifeguard as the manager of the water watchers or the person who makes sure that there are adult supervisors / water watchers in place at all times during the party. This can also include times in which no children are in the pool IF the children have access to the pool.  With far too many parties, there are many adults present but nobody is watching the water.  The adults are engaged in conversation and otherwise staring at their phones and tablets.  Just because an adult is close in proximity to a swimming pool – it does not mean that the adult is paying attention.

It is best if the host of the party designates a Lifeguard and Water Watchers.  It may be helpful to have a sign up sheet and times set up for the Lifeguard and the Water Watchers.  The simple act of setting up the sign up sheet and then having the right people in place to serve as a Lifeguard and Water Watchers can save a life of a child and otherwise make the activity of swimming that much safer for the children.

Jacksonville, Florida had 6 drowning deaths to date.  Certainly, it is a terrible headline for the community and a worse one for the families who have suffered the loss of a child due to a drowning incident.  If a child dies from a drowning event or incident that could have been prevented by the acts of other persons, parties, business entities, or government entities, then an insurance claim or lawsuit may be pursued on behalf of the parents of the child.  This is called a Wrongful Death case which is governed in part by Chapter 768. Florida Statutes.  The most recent child to die as a result of a drowning incident was reported as Nyziah Clark who was attending a pool party with classmates at a pool for a gated townhome community.  See 6th Drowning Death Reported in Jacksonville, Florida.

Swimming-Pool-Liability-150x150Throughout the year, Florida has the distinction of being a state in which warm weather allows for swimming even through the Fall and Winter months. When a child dies as a result of a drowning incident, the death of a child has a ripple effect through the family and community.  According to statistics collated the Florida Department of Children and Families, 82 drowned in 2017 with another 56 who have drowned in 2018 as of this time. Children and adults, who happened to be strong swimmers, can still encounter trouble while swimming.  As such, it is important to have supervision and assistance nearby any time that a child or adult enters a pool. This is especially true for young children, toddlers, and infants who may lack these strong swimming skills or safety awareness.
We live in a world of constant and ongoing distractions in the form of our smart phones and tablets. In a way, our smart phones are making us a bit dumber and less aware of our surroundings. This often is the case when an adult is supposedly supervising a child.  With eyes fixated on the small screen of an iPhone or iPad, a small child may encounter trouble or danger in the form of any body of water including swimming pools, lakes, oceans, rivers, hot tubs, and even bath tubs.
A swimming pool related legal action requires the showing of four elements as follows:

Water-Safety-150x150Florida is a state that allows for swimming virtually year round.  There are swimming pools in just about every neighborhood from small backyard pools to community swimming pools.  While swimming is a great activity for children, it also poses a real risk for children, especially toddlers and smaller children who lack strong swimming, survival skills, and judgment.  Certainly, a child is at risk when there is no adult supervision in the area of the water way / swimming pool.  Even when adults are present, there are also risks to children if their the “supervision” is distracted by conversation, mobile phone use, a television, or just simple inattention.  When a child dies or is seriously injured from a drowning incident, there is a ripple effect through the family and the community.

A recent event that occurred in Jacksonville, Florida exemplifies this. According to a news report, a toddler  drowned in a backyard pool when family members briefly lost track of him. Events like these occur all too frequently. According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of over 700 children under age fourteen die annually from drowning. The Center for Disease Control also indicates that, for every child that dies from drowning, five others go to the hospital for almost drowning. Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in number of child deaths from drowning in 2017, as revealed by the Miami Herald. Thus, staying vigilant with children around water is especially pertinent in Florida.  See Water Injuries – Fact Sheet- Center for Disease Control. 

Most drowning and near drowning incidents are completely preventable.  Water safety / swimming precautions can include: installation of fencing around water, designation of an adult to provide constant supervision of children in water or around water, pool alarm systems for doors leading out to water access, adornment of lifejackets when children play near or in the water, and swim lessons at a young age. CPR training may also save a child’s life in the event that a child drowns.

Drowning-Prevention-Tips-150x150In the summer throughout the United States, there is a common risk in just about every neighborhood – the risk of drowning.  It is important that all child care providers including babysitters, day care centers, child care centers, schools, and summer camps have a plan in place for the proper supervision of children any time that there is a swimming pool accessible to the child and anytime that there are aquatic or boating related activities.

David Wolf is a personal injury attorney based in Jacksonville, Florida who handles child injury cases throughout the State of Florida.  David Wolf is an attorney, author, and advocate for the safety of children.  It is important that the safety of a child be a top of the mind priority for a child care provider any time a child is near a swimming pool or some how may gain access to a swimming pool.  David Wolf is the author of 11 books including the book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child. This book covers a variety of topics including the following:  Swimming Pools, Water Parks and Other Bodies of Water, Sports and Recreational Injuries, Automobile Accidents, Playground Injuries, and other topics.  You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

Drowning is more common than we would like to admit, in fact, for children between the ages of one and fourteen it is the second leading cause of death. Because of the increased risk these children face, it is important for parents, neighbors, friends, relatives, schools, summer camps, day care centers and all others in charge of supervising a child in or near a swimming pool or other water way to keep the certain tips and concepts in mind.

Swimming-Pool-Drowning-150x150In the State of Florida, warm weather allows for swimming and water related activities during most of the year. Of course, summer time is the most popular and populated swim period.  With hot weather in the summer, swimming can be a great way for children to play, relax, and have fun.  However, swimming related activities and locations can also be the site of a tragedy when a child dies as a result of a drowning.  Children are naturally curious. Furthermore, young children especially toddlers have very poor safety awareness.  Because of this, it is important that small children are properly supervised at all times and that swimming pools have proper barriers to the protection of toddlers and young children.
David Wolf, a partner with the law firm of Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A. is a child injury attorney based in Jacksonville, Florida who handles cases throughout the State of Florida. He is the author of 11 books including the book titled The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.  The book covers a number of topics including Homeowner’s Insurance, Swimming Pools, Water Parks, and Other Bodies of Water, Sports and Recreational Injuries, and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.
It is reported that drowning deaths among all age groups is the sixth leading cause of unintentional deaths.  For children 14 and under, drowning is reported as the second leading cause of unintentional deaths.  Despite the known dangers of swimming pools for children, there are still a number of deaths reported over the summer and other times of years of a small child wandering into a pool area and drowning.

Swimming-Pool-Safety-150x150During the spring and summer months, there is an increase in the number of reported drownings and near drownings throughout the United States.  For many warm weather States like California, Texas, and Florida, there are risks of drowning just about year round due to the climate and the abundance of swimming pools, water parks, canals, rivers, and other water ways. Tragically, Texas holds the distinction for being the number one State for child pool drownings.  Children can be especially at risk for drowning when there is a lack of adult supervision.  Certainly, adult supervision should be provided any time that a child is in or near a swimming pool or other accessible swimming area or water way.
While it is difficult to believe or understand, many child drownings and near drownings take place when there are a number of adults in or near the swimming pool area.  How can this happen? How can a child drown with adults just feet away from the swimming pool area?  A drowning can take place in a swimming pool when the adults in the area are otherwise occupied in the acts of talking, eating, drinking, sleeping, surfing (the internet), texting, web browsing, watching a sporting event, or simply talking on a mobile phone.  The presence of adults in or near a swimming pool area is not the same as watchful and attention adult supervision.  As such, it is important to make sure that adult supervision is in place any time that a child is in or near a swimming pool.
Certainly, if a school, summer camp, or day care center is in session and swimming is a current activity – there should be designated and trained staff members in place to watch over the children and to place safety above all other concerns and distractions.  A swimming pool or swimming area is not a good place for multi-tasking.  As such, a person should not have a mobile device in hand and in use while assigned or engaged in the act of supervising children in or near a swimming pool area.

Florida Pool.001In Florida, it is common to see swimming pools in most neighborhood.  It is somewhat of a luxury to have a swimming pool right there in the back yard.  Swimming pools can add to the aesthetics of the house and surrounding.  Swimming pools can also provide for a great deal of fun and relaxation for adults and children alike.  Unfortunate and tragically, swimming pools are also the site of horrible tragedies that despite laws, common sense, and the general knowledge of other similar tragedies continue to take place.  It has been reported that Florida leads the nations in drowning for children under the age of 5 years old.  Florida has ranked second in drownings the age group of 1 to 14 years old.  Florida’s weather allows for swimming almost year round.  During Spring and Summer months, it is tragically predictable that additional drownings of small children will take place.
Florida has adopted a swimming pool act that applies to all homeowners with a swimming pool.  There must be a barrier that is at least 4 feet high on the outside.  There should not be any gaps, openings, or structural components that would allow a child to crawl or squeeze through the barrier or enclosure.  You can read more about these regulations at Section 515.29, Florida Statutes – Residential Swimming Pool Barrier Requirements.
Can a homeowner be held liable or responsible with a child neighbor or child visitor drowns in the swimming pool in Florida?  The answer to this question like most legal question is “It depends.”  If the homeowner failed to follow the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Act and these violations were the proximate cause of the drowning – then the homeowner may be held liable or responsible for the drowning.

blue and vibrant swimming poolside

In the State of Florida and across the nation, one of the leading causes of death for small children, and especially toddlers, is drowning. In Florida, there are private residential swimming pools, public swimming pools, and hotel/motel/resort swimming pools in just about every community. It is important for property owners, business owners, home owners, and government entity to properly safeguard the swimming pool and aquatic area for the protection of children. It is well known and expected that a child, especially one of tender years, under the age of 5 years old, to be curious and inquisitive about interesting areas and what is deemed under Florida Law to be an “attractive nuisance.”

Unfortunately and tragically, there are reports of drowning incidents every summer, spring and the rest of the year in Florida. Many such incidents are preventable with the proper implementation and maintenance of swimming pool fences and barriers, swimming pool alarms, proper adult supervision, proper lifesaving equipment, and the posting of trained and attentive life guards when appropriate. When a child suffers personal injury or dies as a result of a drowning incident there may be a case or claim to pursue on behalf of the child and the family. To establish a legal claim r case, there must be proof and evidence of the following four elements:

1. Duty;

 No Swimming.001During the past week, I have lectured and written on the issue of negligence, child injuries, and the unfortunate and tragic incident that took place at the Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando where a 2 year old child was attacked and ultimately drowned by an alligator.  It has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted in or near the area.  Some people, who I have spoken to, believe that this fact should then be a bar to recovery if there is a claim or case pursued by the parents of the child who died.  Florida is a state that has adopted a Comparative Fault system for the pursuit and trial of personal injury cases.  In other words, even if an injury victim is comparatively or partially at fault, there can still be a case pursued on behalf of the injury victim and / or the injury victim’s family.   It should also be noted that there are some special laws in place in Florida when a child is injured.  For instance, in the State of Florida, a child under the age of 6 years old cannot be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault as a matter of law.  As such, a 2 year old cannot be comparatively at fault as a matter of law even though there were “No Swimming” signs that were posted.  However, a parent, as a third party of sorts, can be held liable, responsible, or partially at fault if the parent’s actions or inactions contributed in whole or part to the situation or incident taking place.
As for the Disney alligator attack, it has been reported that there were “No Swimming” signs posted.  The family of the 2 year old were from Nebraska and may not have been aware of the presence of alligators throughout the State of Florida in its rivers, lakes, canals, ponds, and lagoons.  Furthermore, the sign read “No Swimming”.   The reason for the posting of the sign could have included any of the following:
*There was no regular lifeguard in the area.

orlando-vector-doodle_GJ7pbFLO_LWalt Disney World Orlando advertises itself as one of the “Happiest Places on Earth”.  For millions of visitors every year, it is quite a happy and joyful place filled with rides, cartoon characters, and adventures; however, for many children and their families, Walt Disney World Orlando happens to be a placed filled with horrific memories, significant personal injuries, tragedy, and even the untimely and wrongful death of a visitor from children to teens to adults. Certainly, Walt Disney World Orlando welcomes children and families to its many theme parks, attractions, resorts, and hotels.  As such, it is important that Walt Disney World Orlando provide a safe and well maintained environment with the full knowledge that every day families and young children will be on the premises.   This duty extends to all areas of the park and resorts including but not limited to the attractions, rides, restaurants, hotels, lobby areas, swimming pool areas, recreation areas, and yes, the other aquatic areas whether man-made or natural in the form of lakes, ponds, canals, lagoons, and other areas.   It is incumbent upon Walt Disney World Orlando to patrol the areas, maintain the areas, clean up the areas, and post prominent signage about potential dangers that may include those related to electrical and wildlife.  If an area has the potential for significant injury or death, this particular area should either be closed off, modified, and / or posted with prominent signage.

A recent incident at Walt Disney World Orlando left a family and community in shock when an alligator from the Seven Seas Lagoon lunged out of the water and grabbed a 2 year old who was standing in or near the water with his father.  The boy, who was vacationing with his family from Nebraska, was attacked by the alligator.  While the father tried to do his best to stop the attack and save his son, he was unable to do so.  It was reported that there were signs in the area that advised visitors about the designation of a “No Swimming” area.  There may not have been any warnings or signage about the presence of dangerous wildlife including but not limited to alligators.  Certainly, this incident was and is a complete and utter nightmare for the family visiting the “Magic Kingdom” from Nebraska.  The incident was immediately reported to Walt Disney World Orlando officials, resort staff and management, local law enforcement, and Florida Wildlife Law Enforcement officers.  You can read more about this tragedy at KETV Omaha, Nebraska – Alligator Attacks and Drags 2 Year Old Nebraska Boy at Walt Disney World Orland Resort – Seven Seas Lagoon. 

The injury and / or wrongful of a child is a harrowing experience.  Certainly, as parents, we work day and night to provide for our children’s safety, health, and welfare.  When a child is injured or when a child dies as a result of the negligence of another person, business entity, or government entity, a parent is faced with a number of life, medical, and legal challenges. Certainly, it is important that these trying times to be supported by family members, friends, community, medical professionals, clergy, community, and, yes, when necessary an experienced and caring Florida Child Injury Lawyer.  Big businesses are supported day / night by in-house and retained legal counsel essentially on a 24 / 7 basis. There are risk management and insurance risk management adjuster in place to advise and protect the companies.  As such, injury victims and their families also deserve legal representation to make that legal rights are protected, enforced, and preserved as needed especially in the aftermath of significant personal injuries and /or wrongful death.