Swimming pool accident deaths in Texas
It's another hot summer in Texas, which means swimmers are cannon-balling into pools all over the Lone Star State. It's also the season for fatal swimming pool accidents. As with most accidents, prevention is the best cure: adults and children should learn about swim safety, and pool owners should maintain safe premises. Too often, however, people only take pool accidents into account once one has already happened.
Swimming pool deaths happen too often
Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the latest statistics from the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, there were at least 76 fatal child drownings
in 2022. So far this year, there have been 22 fatal child drownings. The organization estimates that for every fatal drowning of a child ages 1-15, there were 7 non-fatal child drownings.
Non-fatal drownings can cause severe brain injury from oxygen starvation, leading to debilitation or even vegetation. We will elaborate later on how pool owners can be responsible for unsupervised and even uninvited individuals who drown in their pools
Common causes of drowning
Swimming pool drownings can occur due to a variety of factors, many of which involve a combination of human behavior, environmental conditions, and lack of proper safety measures. Here are some common causes:
- Lack of supervision
- Insufficient swimming skills
- Alcohol and substance use
- Unfenced or unsecured pools
- Lack of life jackets or floatation devices
- Fatigue and overexertion
- Rough water or currents
- Diving accidents
- Medical conditions and sudden illness
- Horseplay and risky behavior
- Lack of emergency preparedness
- Poorly maintained equipment
Another frequent pool accident is circulation entrapment
, which occurs when a body part, hair, or clothing gets caught in a pool filter. Victims can incur injuries directly from the filter's suction, and they can drown while trapped. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) created guidelines in order to prevent entrapment
, and pool owners must abide by them.
Who can be held liable in a drowning accident?
Liability in a swimming pool accident can vary depending on the specific circumstances. Here are some potentially liable parties in a swimming pool accident:
- Pool owners: The owner of the swimming pool, whether it's an individual, a homeowner's association, a hotel, a water park, or a public facility, may be held liable if negligence or unsafe conditions on their property contributed to the accident. This includes maintaining proper fencing, signage, and safety equipment.
- Property managers: If the pool is managed by a separate entity, such as a property management company, they could also be held liable if their negligence or failure to maintain the pool led to the accident.
- Operators and lifeguards: Lifeguards and pool operators have a duty to provide a safe environment for swimmers. If their negligence, inadequate training, or failure to respond to an emergency contributed to the accident, they could be held liable.
- Manufacturers: If a defective pool component, such as a ladder, diving board, or drain cover, contributes to an accident, the manufacturer of that component could be held liable for producing a faulty product.
- Contractors and builders: If the pool was poorly designed or constructed, leading to hazardous conditions or accidents, the contractors or builders involved could be held responsible for their negligence. Oftentimes, we've found that swimming pools are frequently not designed to code and pose serious risks to swimmers.
- Parents or guardians: In cases involving minors, the parents or guardians of the child could potentially be held liable if they failed to provide adequate supervision or allowed the child to engage in unsafe behavior.
- Guests and visitors: If an individual's negligent behavior, such as diving into shallow water or engaging in dangerous horseplay, contributes to an accident, they could be held responsible for their actions.
- Alcohol providers: If alcohol was provided to an individual who later engaged in unsafe swimming activities and an accident occurred, the person or establishment providing the alcohol could potentially share liability.
- Local authorities: In some cases, if a public pool is operated by a government entity and negligence on their part contributes to an accident, the government agency responsible for oversight may be held liable.
- Negligent swimmers: Individuals who engage in reckless behavior, such as ignoring safety rules or swimming while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, could be held liable for their own actions.
- Security maintenance companies: If a security or maintenance company is responsible for overseeing safety measures and they fail to fulfill their responsibilities, they could be held liable.
What is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine?
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
is based on the understanding that children, especially young ones, may not fully comprehend the risks associated with certain hazards and are naturally curious, making them more likely to be drawn to things that seem interesting or enticing. It is designed to promote the safety of children by placing a duty of care on property owners to mitigate potential hazards that might attract young children, even if those children are trespassing. The attractive nuisance doctrine typically has the following key elements:
- Condition likely to attract children: The property owner must have a condition or object on their property that is likely to attract children due to its inherent appeal. This could include things like swimming pools, trampolines, playground equipment, construction sites, or other potentially dangerous features.
- Awareness of the attraction and risk: The property owner must be aware or should reasonably be aware that the condition or object could attract children. This awareness implies that the owner should recognize the potential danger to children who might be drawn to it.
- Risk to children: The condition or object must pose a risk of harm to children because they might not fully understand the potential danger. This is often related to the fact that children might lack the judgment and experience to recognize hazards.
- Failure to take adequate precautions: The property owner must have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent access to the hazardous condition or object, even though they knew or should have known that children could be attracted to it. These precautions could include installing fences, locks, warning signs, or other safety measures.
- Foreseeable harm: The harm that occurred should have been foreseeable based on the potential danger posed by the attractive nuisance. In other words, a reasonable person in the property owner's position would have anticipated that children could be injured by the hazard.
What legal options do families of drowning victims have?
If property owners fail in their duty to ensure relative safety, victims who sustain injuries can file suit. Generally, a pool accident lawsuit is filed as a premises liability negligence
case, citing that the owner had a duty to ensure visitor safety and that the accident was proximate (directly relating) to that safety breach. Most often, the property owner's insurance company compensates for a pool accident, but negotiating maximum compensation is tricky. You need an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury, wrongful death, and negligence.
How a personal injury lawyer can help
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a pool accident, you might have legal recourse. Our personal injury attorneys at Wyatt Law Firm fight hard against negligence and wrongful death. Call us at 210-871-0628
for a free case review or submit a confidential contact form
via our website. We handle complicated cases. Let us handle yours.