Claims and Defenses in Swimming Pool Drowning Matters
During the summer of 2018, Florida once again led the nation in terms of child swimming pool drowning fatalities. All these victims were under 15, and many of them were under 5. The drowning victims who survive often sustain permanent and severe brain injuries. Just a few minutes under the water is enough to cause cerebral palsy and other catastrophic injuries.
Because of the lifelong nature of these injuries, Brandon drowning attorneys often obtain substantial compensation for these victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Many times, attorneys arrange favorable pretrial settlements, so victims do not have to go to court.
The exact amount of compensation often depends on the severity of the injuries as well as the legal claims and defenses, as outlined below.
Your Case for Damages
Many swimming pool drowning claims rest on the negligence per se doctrine. This legal rule applies if the pool owner violates a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury.
In terms of private pools, the applicable law is usually the Florida Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act. This law contains a number of provisions which are designed to keep kids safe in backyard swimming pools. Some of these requirements include:
- An unclimbable fence or other barrier which completely surrounds the pool,
- Self-latching gate with a mechanism which operates from the pool side,
- Alarms on any doors or windows which open directly to the pool area, and
- A swimming pool cover or other safety device that keeps unsupervised kids out of the water.
Brandon, Orlando, and other municipalities often have additional pool safety laws which go beyond the FRSPSA. If that’s the case, pool owners must comply with these additional requirements as well.
Other swimming pool injury cases, particularly poisoning claims, rest on the ordinary negligence rule. This legal doctrine states that property owners have a duty of care to ensure that their property, including their swimming pools, are safe.
Even if the child was a trespasser who sneaked onto the property to use the pool, the duty of care probably still applies. The attractive nuisance rule states that owners must take extra precautions with regard to swimming pools and other places where children often play.
Swimming pool poisoning injuries usually involve the cleaning chemicals, or lack thereof, in the water. Too much chlorine and other toxic chemicals cause chemical burns. If there are not enough chemicals, dangerous bacteria grows unchecked, especially in hot summer temperatures.
The Assumption of the Risk Defense
This legal loophole is by far the most common insurance company defense in all swimming pool injury claims. Contrary to popular myth, a “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign is not a magic wand that immunizes property owners. Instead, these signs just make the assumption of the risk defense a little easier to prove in court. Its two elements are:
- Voluntary Assumption: Diving into a swimming pool is almost always a voluntary act. But if the victim did not see the sign, could not read it, or did not understand it, swimming may not have been a “voluntary” act for legal purposes.
- Known Risk: Drowning is a known risk. But rare swimming pool poisoning is not a known risk. The same conclusion applies to defective pool equipment, like non-working drains or pumps.
In court, insurance companies have the burden of proof on both elements of the assumption of the risk defense.
Connect with Aggressive Attorneys
Swimming pool injury victims may be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced drowning lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).