We understand that drownings can happen very quickly and with little or no warning, and the pain and loss from a drowning accident is immeasurable. Matters are made worse if such an accident is due to the negligence of others. Below we discuss what constitutes negligence in the case of near or fatal drowning, or what makes a party liable for damages.
Drowning: Risks to Children
Children more than any other group are at risk of drowning. In 2014, 800 children died by drowning, one of the leading causes of youth mortality in the United States. The highest risk group are children under 5 years old, who are three times more likely to die in this manner than children 5-17.
Children lose consciousness after approximately two minutes under water and brain injury occurs between four and six minutes. Most children who survive a near drowning without neurological damage are found within two minutes after submersion. Most drowning fatalities occur after the victim had been submerged for over 10 minutes (Statistical data obtained from Safe Kids USA).
People who survive a near-drowning can suffer lifelong consequences including severe, permanent hypoxic or anoxic brain damage. After four to six minutes under water, the damage is usually irreversible.
Negligence in Drowning Cases
Drownings and near-drowning incidents are almost always preventable. Public pool operators have a duty to protect against foreseeable hazards by taking such measures as inspecting and maintaining pool fences, gates, and locks in good working order to prevent unauthorized or unsupervised use of pools and spas. Those found negligent can be liable for damages under the area of the law known as tort law.
They must, in addition:
- Inspect and properly maintain pool or hot tub drain covers to prevent suction entrapment
- Hire qualified lifeguards
- Post warning signs
- Provide appropriate life-saving equipment (such as lifesavers).
- Other safety measures as may be reasonable under the circumstances.
Owners of swimming pools or hot tubs on private property, including apartment complexes and condominium associations, are likewise required to protect against foreseeable risks by taking appropriate safety measures to prevent accidental drowning and may be held liable for failing to do so.
Hotel and Resort Negligence
Similarly, hotels and resorts with beach access have a duty to protect against foreseeable risks by implementing appropriate safety measures and a duty to warn guests of known hazards such as dangerous "rip currents" or "undertows."
These hotels can be held liable for their negligence when someone is injured or killed as a result. Operators of commercial dive boats and fishing charters can also be held liable for failing to take reasonable steps to protect their patrons from foreseeable harm such as accidental drowning.
Generally, hotels as well as the owners and operators of public pools, pools in private homes, apartment complex pools, condo association pools and charter boats have liability insurance which covers them for personal injury or wrongful death claims arising out of accidental drownings which were caused by their negligence.
Many drowning can be the result of negligence in the operation of a boat or other water vessel. For more on this subject visit our boating accidents page.
Types of Damages
If you believe that negligence is at the root of the accident in question, there are various types of damages that one can pursue. As in any wrongful death suit, surviving victims can claim the loss of the deceased’s expected earnings and/or inheritance lost. In addition, there are potential punitive damages that may be claimed by the family, including:
- Loss of consortium (a legal term for the rights of partners in a marriage)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a parent/guardian
For any questions about whether legal guidance in the case of drowning negligence is right for you, contact us today.