Articles Posted in Swimming Pool & Aquatic Injuries

Swimming Pool - Drowning and Personal Injuries
In Florida, swimming, boating, and aquatic activities are essentially year round activities.  This is especially true during the spring and summer seasons.   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day from drowning related incidents. Children under the age of 14 account for 2 out of the 10 deaths.  It is reported that drowning is the 5th leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States.

Despite these risks and disturbing statistics, drowning incidents continue and unfortunately will continue through the rest of the 2016 year including the summer season.  Can a case or claim be pursued on behalf of an injured child OR on behalf of the parents of a child who dies as a result of a drowning incident?  Like many legal questions, it depends on the facts and circumstances.  It also depends on the practicalities associated with liability insurance coverage and other matters.
Like other personal injury cases in the State of Florida, there are four essential elements associated with a drowning case:

vibrant swimming pool side with ladder

Swimming Pool Drowning

Disney and other theme parks are magical.  For some, they are a place where dreams come true.  For others, they are a place that sadly are a reminder of a horrible tragedy in the form of a death or a serious personal injury of a child.   It was recently reported that a 3 year old child drowned at the Disney World – Art of Animation Resort located in Kissimmee (Orlando), Florida.  It was reported that the 3 year old child was found in the pool at approximately 8:00 p.m.  The child was found underwater.   The child was then taken to a local hospital where the child was pronounced dead.   What a terrible ordeal for all involved.

There are a number of legal and safety issues involved with an incident that takes place at Disney World and other theme parks.   First, it is well known that Disney and other theme parks cater to children and families.  The marketing dollars and attractions are geared to attracting children and their families to visit the park and, yes, spend money.  Disney and other theme parks have a business to run and there is nothing wrong with that; however, with the operation of any business, there is a responsibility to maintain the property and common areas in a reasonably safe condition.  Can all incidents leading to injury be prevented?  The answer is certainly no.  However, Disney, theme parks, and hotels have a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition taking into consideration the needs, abilities, and disabilities of the guests including but not limited to children, toddlers, and infants.   Toddlers are unique guests.   They can walk and tend to wander and explore.   It is well known with toddlers that they lack good safety awareness and often fail to follow instructions.  In the State of Florida, the disabilities and poor judgment of toddlers and other young children are built into the law.  A child under the age of 6 years old in the State of Florida can be held liable for comparatively at fault for his or her actions.   However, this does not absolve a parent or other family member of the responsibility to supervise and monitor the child.

close-up of colorful rubber ducks at the pool side (shallow depth of field)

Swimming Pool Drowning      Risks to Children

Even though the risks are well known or should be well known to all adults, some how children including but not limited to toddlers drown every year at private pools, community pools, day care centers, and water parks.  Even one child, who drowns as a result of a preventable incident, is one child too many.  There are many reasons out there for this ongoing problem during the summer months and other times of the year.  It is important to spot the problems and put preventative measures in place to prevent any further drowning incidents.

Supervision

gorgeous swimming pool side with colorful water mattress

Swimming Pool Drowings

Children are at risk for drowning incidents any time that children are near or in a swimming pool area or similar area like a lake, pond, water park, etc. . . .  As for residential swimming pools, it is important that pool owner and supervising adults keep a swimming pool out of the reach of children.  Certainly, a swimming pool owner, child care provider, and others watching child should following the applicable state and local laws; however, merely following the law will not prevent some incidents from happening.  There really is not substitute for common sense, supervision, or due diligence.

Florida enacted Chapter 515 – Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act as a measure to protect children. Pursuant to Section 515.29, Florida Statutes, a residential pool owner must comply with the following requirements:

Swimming Pool - Water Slide - Injury - Drowning
During the summer months, children enjoy the time off from school and the opportunity to splash around at the community pool, a neighbor’s pool, a water park, or theme park.  Most public areas are well maintained and inspected frequently.  Most are staffed with trained lifeguards and maintenance personnel to provide for a safe aquatic environment for children. Unfortunately for some children Unfortunately for some children during the summer months, a swimming pool, water park, or theme park is the site for a serious personal injury.  Some incidents even result in the untimely and tragic death of a child as a result of a drowning or a traumatic injury.
Is a water park, theme park or property owner of a swimming pool liable or responsible for injuries that take place on the premises? The answer to this question like many other depends the particular facts and circumstances of the incident leading to the serious personal injuries or death of the child. There are four elements that are required to be proved to establish a case against a swimming pool owner, theme park, or water park.
1. Duty;

vibrant swimming pool side with ladder

Swimming Safety Measures

During the summer months in Florida and other States, children enjoy the free time and water related activities like swimming in the pool of summer camp, school, day care center, community center, friend, or neighbor.  Splashing around and playing with friends to beat the summer heat can be great fun.  Unfortunately for some children and families, these very same swimming pools can be the site of the serious personal injury or death of a child due to a drowning incident.  Approximately 1000 children per year the United States drown.  Another alarming statistic is that over 5000 children suffer personal injuries each year as a result of near drowning related incidents.  While drowning does not discriminate by age or anything else, it is clear that it is the youngest children in the community who are at greatest risks.  Drowning is reported as the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old.  Many drowning related incidents and near drowning related incidents can be avoided through better and more attentive adult supervision during swim time.  Furthermore, any time that a child is near a body of water whether it is a swimming pool, wading pool, lake, river, ocean, water park, etc . . . – measures should be taken to supervise children so that they do not wander off and go play in the water or aquatic related area without proper adult supervision and related safety measures.

For summer camps, day care centers, schools, and other child care providers, written rules and policies should be posted, distributed, and followed for all child care personnel.  There should be trained lifeguards in place.  In addition, personnel should be trained in CPR and other safety measures.  Whether swimming activities are taking place at a school, day care center, camp, or even a neighbor’s house, here are some safety measures that should always be kept in mind:

swimming%20pool%20tiled%20bottom.jpgIn Florida and other States, parents rely on day care centers to provide for the safety and early education of their children. The presence of swimming pool can be a wonderful benefit for the children enrolled in the day care center. Activities can be organized in and around the pool. The swimming pool can be a source of great fun but it can also be a source of risk and danger for the children. Because of this, it is vital that a day care center have written rules and policies for swim related activities and safety in and around the pool. Small children often have poor safety judgment. This is especially true in and around swimming pools. When there is a lack of safety precautions and / or supervision, a child can easily slip away and end up helpless in a swimming pool.

Day care centers should not leave things to chance. A pool barrier should be erected and secure. Furthermore, all exit doors to swimming pool areas should be secure and when available should have door alarms in place. Make sure that the pool barriers are frequently inspected and maintained by professionals. A parent with a child enrolled in a day care center with a swimming pool should ask to review the policies and get a walk through of the swimming pool area and safety precautions.

The owner of a day care center should follow all State and local rules and regulations for day care centers and swimming pools. Documentation should be in place and all staff members should be duly trained in aquatic safety and CPR. If these suggestions are too onerous for a day care center, then the owners of the day care center should consider closing down the pool before a tragedy takes place. It is better for a day care center to be prepared than for a day care center to make headlines that a child drowned while under the supervision and watch of a day care center.

Swimming%20pond%20lake%20infection%20bacteria%20disease%20chid%20injury.jpgIn Florida, children are at risk for drowning related injuries and death in most every community. There are lakes, canals, retention ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water in virtually every community throughout the State of Florida. It is impractical and costs prohibitive to fence and post signs in and around every body of water in Florida. While it is unrealistic to fence all of these areas, there still may be liability for a property owner, homeowner’s association, business, theme park, amusement park, or other entity when a child dies if there is a lack of warning signs and / or fencing around the body of water.

As noted in Longmore v. Saga Bay Property Owners Association, 868 So.2d 1268 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A. 2004), “there is no liability for a child’s drowning in a body of water, natural or artificial, unless there is some unusual danger not generally existing in similar bodies of water or the water contains a dangerous condition constituting a trap.” The Third District Court of Appeal in the Longmore case affirmed the dismissal of wrongful case filed by the parents of child who drowned in the lake owned, controlled, and / or maintained by the property association. The Court in Longmore did cite some cases or examples in which a body of water or an area would be considered a trap as follows:

*Starling v. Saha, 451 So.2d 516 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1984) – Child drowned when the child was swimming in a pond and got caught by an intake hose of a drainage pump that had been left operating without supervision.

Swimming%20Beach%20Drowning%20Lifeguard.jpegIn Florida, there are often field trips to swimming pools, lakes, water parks, and yes, the beach. On the typical field trip, the children have fun and enjoy the day out in the sun filled with friends, swimming, and other activities. Unfortunately on some field trips, a child suffers serious personal injuries and in some cases death from a drowning. When a school, day care center, or camp organizes an activity that is centered around or near a body water or swimming, there should be precautions are taken for the safety and well-being of children. The amount and type of supervision will depend on the number of children, the body of water or water park, the age of the children, swimming abilities of the children and other factors.

Beach activities can be especially dangerous for children because of the size of the area, the unpredictability of the currents and waves, the depth of the water, and limited availability of lifeguards. In Florida, it simply is not possible to have a lifeguard posted every area in which swimming or beach activity take place. It is simply not feasible for counties and cities to post lifeguards at or near every single area in which a person goes into the water. Because of this, it is usually a best practice to limit school field trips and activities in areas in which lifeguards are posted. In addition, schools, day care centers, and camps should also set forth limits as to the area in which the children can swim, the depth in which children can swim, and put in place a buddy system. In addition, there should be chaperones and counselors / attendants posted near the shore of the waterway / beach in addition to the lifeguards that are posted. Volunteers, chaperones, and counselors should take his or her position seriously and focus his / her attention of children in the water rather than engaging in conversation or other distractions. By following these simple and feasible safety precautions, many personal injuries and drowning incidents can be avoided or prevented.

A recent drowning incident was reported in New Smyrna Beach Florida. The Daytona newspaper and other news outlets reported that a 17-year-old boy (J.J. Branchedor) died while participating in a school related field trip to the beach. He was missing for three hours before his body was retrieved, For more information regarding this incident – See 17-Year-Old Drowns in New Smyrna Beach Florida Area. The death of this child is certainly a tragedy for his family, the the beach community, his school, friends, and the community in general.

swimming%20pool%20tiled%20bottom.jpg

In Florida, swimming pools are present in most communities and neighborhoods. In most instances, swimmimg pools provide areas of rest, relaxation, and fun for children and families. Unfortunately, there are instances in which swimming pools are the site of serious personal injuries and, in some cases, even death. Florida enacted the Residential Swimming Pool Act which sets forth minimum standards for barriers around swimming pools located in residential areas in the State of Florida. The purpose of the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Act is to prevent children in or near the home from wandering into the swimming pool area without proper adult supervision. In addition to the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Act, homeowners have a duty to provide reasonable and necessary supervision of children and guests when they visit the home. Of course, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances. For instance, the duty of care and supervision to a group of three year olds would be different than what would be expected or needed for a group of 16 year olds. When a homeowner invites a child to the home, proper and timely adult supervision should be provided especially with respect to homes that have a swimming pool.

The book titled – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Homeowner’s Insurance, Swimming Pool and Water Park Injuries, Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, and other chapters. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.

When a child drowns and suffers serious personal injuries or drowns, there are many challenges and issues that a parent faces. It is important that these times to have the support of family, friends, neighborhood, and community. A Florida Child Injury Lawyer can also help parents in these most trying times to understand the laws and legal rights of the injured child and the parents. David Wolf is a Florida Child Injury Attorney, Author, and Advocate for the protection and enforcement of the rights of children. Mr. Wolf has dedicated his entire legal career to the protection of children. Mr Wolf makes it his daily priority to stand up for children and their families in need of help and legal advice when there is a serious injury to a child.