Drownings are some of the most devastating and preventable accidents imaginable. Unfortunately, they are far more common than they ever should be. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drownings are the leading cause of death for American children between the ages of one and four, aside from deaths related to birth defects. Drownings are also largely preventable. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 56% of child drownings are directly attributable to lack of adult supervision. Looking away, for even a minute or two, is long enough for a small child to wander into a pool or into a lake, so it is crucial for responsible adults to remain constantly vigilant when small children are near a pool, lake, or ocean.
Unlike other injuries, drownings often have dire consequences, ranging from serious personal injury to death. Drowning ultimately involves deprivation of oxygen from the brain. Even non-fatal drowning cases often result in severe brain damage and permanent impairment. When such brain damage occurs in small children, it can significantly disrupt their mental, physical, and emotional development and is frequently associated by long-term disabilities. Sadly, many drownings often result in the loss of a loved one, shattering families and leaving a void that can never be replaced.
While there are some drownings that are truly freak accidents, most drownings are preventable with suitable adult supervision; and, while no amount of money can truly make up for the loss of a loved one or the devastating effects of lifelong injuries, money damages are the only way we have in the American civil justice system to hold wrongdoers accountable and to incentivize safer pools, hot tubs, lakes, and oceans. The attorneys at Pracht Injury Lawyers are here to help you and your family if a loved one has been the victim of drowning due to someone else’s negligence.
Lifeguards of private and public pools, as well as those stationed at oceans and lakes, are required to follow certain rules and regulations when on duty. They are all trained in CPR and lifesaving techniques. Even a slight deviation from lifeguarding rules and regulations can have dire consequences; and, if a lifeguard’s failure to abide by safety standards results in the drowning of your child or your loved one, he or she may be held liable to you for medical bills, pain and suffering, permanent injuries, funeral expenses, as well as the grief and mental anguish associated with the loss of a loved one. Further, the lifeguard’s employer may also be liable to you under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior, which means that an employer is liable for the wrongdoing of his employee, provided the employee was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of his wrongdoing. This is important because while it is unlikely that an individual lifeguard would have sufficient assets to compensate you for your losses, his or her employer is likely to either have sufficient liability insurance coverage or assets to compensate you and your family.
Homeowners who have pools at their residences are also potentially liable to the victims of drownings in certain circumstances, particularly when those victims are children. Pool owners with insufficient fencing or unlatched gates around their pools could be held liable in South Carolina under the doctrine of Attractive Nuisance. Attractive Nuisance applies to dangerous conditions that are particularly appealing to children, and the courts had swimming pools and other such attractions in mind when formulating this doctrine. “One who artificially creates upon his premises any dangerous thing which from its nature has a tendency to attract the childish instincts of children to play with it is bound, as a mere matter of social duty, to take such reasonable precautions as the circumstances admit of, to the end that they may be protected from injury while so playing with it or coming in its vicinity.” Franks v. S. Cotton Oil Co., 78 S.C. 10, 15, 58 S.E.2d 960, 961 (1907). In other words, any property owner who has something on his property that he should know children might be attracted towards and, that is potentially dangerous, should take reasonable steps to protect children from gaining access to it or injuring themselves while playing with it. This means that pool owners must construct sufficient fencing and gates to prevent children from wandering onto their property and into their pools.
Homeowners with pools also have a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that swimmers in their own pools are sufficiently strong swimmers to be able to safely enjoy the pool. Pool owners also have a duty to take reasonable care to keep a watchful eye on any children in and around the pool to avoid any unsafe situations that could result in drowning. Thankfully, residential pool accidents are typically covered by homeowners’ liability insurance policies, which can help compensate the families of drowning victims when those duties of reasonable care are breached.
If your family is ever in need of legal assistance in the event of a tragic drowning accident, we can help. The insurance industry, through its adjusters and attorneys, are constantly looking for ways to avoid accountability and to avoid fairly compensating you and your family. Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys are skilled litigators who can anticipate the insurance industry’s every move, and we will work hard to do everything possible to ensure your family is fairly compensated for losses caused by someone else’s negligence.