There are few things more fun than spending time in the pool. Even when you are not directly involved in a game or activity, simply floating and enjoying the water is worth the experience. Pools are a great time, but they are also inherently dangerous. Humans are not aquatic, and we can suffer injuries from spending too much time underwater. Even outside the water, slippery surfaces and diving boards pose a threat. If you are injured in a pool accident, who can you hold responsible? Depending upon the circumstances, a homeowner or business owner could be held liable for your injuries.
In legal terms, someone who visits a private residence is classified as a “licensee.” When you spend time in your friend’s pool, you are their licensee. Private landowners are not heavily responsible for a licensee’s safety. The law asserts that as a visitor, you are assuming any risks connected to that property.
Homeowners, however, cannot directly endanger their visitors. In personal injury law, people can be held responsible for their actions. They can also be responsible for their inaction, often called “negligence.” For example, if a homeowner is aware of something dangerous in the home, they have a responsibility to warn their visitors.
If you are visiting a home and suffer a swimming pool injury, you can hold the homeowner responsible when they are guilty of gross negligence. For example, you would not reasonably expect there to be broken glass at the bottom of the pool. If there is and no one warned you, you can hold the owners responsible for their negligence. There could also be electrical hazards nearby. Perhaps an electric pool cleaner has a live, exposed wire near the water. These are examples of gross negligence, and you should have been warned of these dangers before entering the pool.
Homeowners are often guilty of neglecting pool maintenance. There should be regular upkeep of the pool and the water itself. You could potentially contract an illness from dirty water. This is another example of negligence on the owner’s part.
Children require constant supervision while in the water. Any simple accident could lead to disaster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is a leading cause of death for kids between ages 1 and 14. These statistics show that every day, three children are killed by drowning. According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children between ages 1 and 4, just behind birth defects. If you leave your children under the supervision of a friend, that friend has a responsibility for the child’s safety, especially in a swimming pool. An unattended child in a pool is another example of a gross negligence on the part of the residence’s owner.
Public Pool Liability
For the purposes of this article, we will classify many pools as “public.” They could be pools in a rec center such as the YMCA. Perhaps this pool is located at a hotel. Maybe there is a genuinely “public” pool owned by the city and available to anyone.
For public pools, the property owner has the highest degree of responsibility toward swimmers. These swimmers are legally classified and “invitees,” and their presence is the very reason the pool exists.
When public pools owners are negligent, they can be held responsible for your injures. They must continually keep their swimming pools clear of hazards. Rec centers should have a lifeguard on duty, keeping swimmers safe. Even locations with no paid lifeguard, such as hotels, are responsible for making sure children are attended and the pool is free of hazards.
There is a degree of assumed risk on the part of the swimmers as well. People who cannot swim should not blame the pool owner if they are injured by their inexperience. Someone who runs along the edge of the pool, which is against posted rules, is responsible when they slip and hurt themselves.
Suing for a public pool injury can be complicated. Your lawyer must investigate the details of your accident to determine liability. If there was no lifeguard on duty at a rec center, for example, you may be able file suit against the property owners or managers. They have a responsibility to make sure their pool is monitored.
Perhaps there was a lifeguard on duty, but they didn’t respond when you needed help. The details matter in this scenario. If, perhaps, that lifeguard had a long history of being ineffective, you may be able to hold management liable. They should have taken action by retraining or firing the incompetent worker. However, imagine that lifeguard has a stellar work record, but on this particular day, they were asleep or intoxicated. In that situation, you may be able to hold that lifeguard directly responsible for your injuries.
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Personal injury cases involving children operate on the “attractive nuisance doctrine.” Essentially, the law recognizes that young children cannot always comprehend the consequences of their actions. If children see something that looks fun and exciting, they may gravitate toward it. This could include empty refrigerators, inoperable cars, and, of course, swimming pools.
Landowners have a responsibility to shield children from these “attractive” items. Even if a child has entered a property illegally, the owner could be held liable if that child is injured. Pool owners must erect fences or pool barriers. It is simply too easy for a small child to access an open swimming pool. If a child is harmed by an easily accessible swimming pool, the owner is responsible for the child’s injuries.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Tragically, many swimming pool injuries result in death. If someone you love was killed in a pool accident, it may be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Their living loved ones can file suit, earning compensation for medical and funeral expenses; pain and suffering; and lack of support from their loved one’s absence.
If you or someone you love was harmed in a swimming pool accident, please reach out today. Initial consultations are free, so call (602) 483-6114, or contact us online.