Negligence and Liability in Drowning Lawsuits: What to Know

Swimming pool with stairs and wooden deck

Summer has arrived, and that means it's time to take off pool covers and lounge poolside whenever we get the chance. Bask in that warm air and sunshine, and take a dip in the pool to cool off -- but don't forget to put safety measures in place while you're at it.

Drowning and Pool Accidents

Children make up roughly 25% of drowning-related deaths, most of which occur at personal residences. That statistic is humbling, as it should be. Unintentional drowning is actually the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Many of these are due to children finding their way into ungated residential home pools, whether it be their own, their neighbors, or a friends pool. Many others are due to situations in which there were other forms of negligence, such as inattention of overseers, inadequate flotation being provided, etc. While not all drowning incidents are fatal, most will have life-changing consequences such as serious and/or long-term health issues, trauma, and financial consequences for their families.

If you have suffered the death or serious health consequences of your child drowning due to someone's negligence, we grieve with you and we want to help. Most incidents of drowning are preventable, and you may be able to receive compensation for what you've endured.

The two most common categories of law that pertain to drowning incidents are premises liability and product liability, which we'll cover here.

Negligence and Liability in Drowning Cases

Unfortunately, drowning incidents aren't uncommon, and they can happen anywhere. Depending on the circumstances, the business or individual may be considered negligent or liable in drowning cases. Some potential examples include:

  • At private residences where there is a filled swimming pool, hot tub, or bathtub.
  • At hotels or resorts where there is a swimming pool, hot tub, lazy river, water slide, or other water feature.
  • Public pools, gyms, or member-only swimming facilities where lifeguards are inattentive or inadequately trained, or the facilities aren't properly maintained.
  • Facilities that have specific pool hours but don't prevent people from going in after hours.
  • Facilities that don't maintain ladders, stairs, diving boards, etc.
  • Facilities that have inadequate lighting, blind spots, or slippery floors that can cause accidents.
  • Facilities that fail to post warning signs about any safety hazards

Operators of businesses like hotels, resorts, schools, private homeowners, and other places with pools accessible are typically required to take measures to provide security for people who are not authorized to use the pools without supervision. If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a swimming pool owner or operator, you may be eligible to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim under premises liability.

Premises Liability and Drowning Incidents

A pool is part of a property; therefore, the property owner has a duty to ensure safety and can be held liable for their negligence if they fail to maintain adequate safety measures. This includes:

  • Posting signage where there are safety hazards
  • Restricting access to pools or other water facilities through locked gates or doors
  • Providing emergency safety equipment
  • Fixing damaged property or safety issues in a timely manner
  • Hiring trained lifeguard staff (if required by law)
  • Abiding by municipal ordinances and state laws

If a property owner fails to do any of the above, they are at risk of being held liable for their negligence. They are vulnerable to a premises liability lawsuit if a drowning incident or other physical injury results from their negligence.

Critics may argue that swimmers should bear some personal responsibility, and while that is true, children cannot be held to the same standards as adults. Children aren't as aware of safety as adults are, as this is something we learn as we grow up. Children are curious and can't be held responsible if they have a drowning incident because an adult failed to protect them from harm the child was unaware of. This is why it is so important for precautions to be taken so that negligence doesn't result in the death or harm of a child.

Product Liability and Drowning Incidents

Sometimes property owners aren't at fault for a drowning incident—product manufacturers, installers, or retailers are. If drowning results from a defective pool or pool product, manufacturers, installers, or retailers can be held liable. Defective products resulting in product liability cases can include:

  • Pool filters: Sometimes, pool filters can malfunction or even explode because of compressed air within the filter. They have been known to launch several feet from a pool and project sharp objects at swimmers, causing injuries.
  • Pool drains and pumps: Suction entrapment is common in defective pools and pumps. This is where a swimmer's hair or swimsuit gets sucked into a drain because of its suction, possibly resulting in a swimmer being stuck underwater and drowning.
  • Pool accessories: Diving boards, slides, and ladders are another liability if they were manufactured incorrectly or were installed incorrectly or in the wrong place.
  • Pool safety gear: Life jackets and ring buoys are essential in cases of emergency, and if they don't work in an emergency, there can be serious consequences. Alarms that are meant to alert property owners of unexpected pool entrants are a great tool if they work properly. A defective alarm can be detrimental and fail to alert property owners of potential drownings.
  • Pool gates or barriers: Pool gates and barriers are essential to ensure there isn't any unwanted access, especially when a pool is not being monitored. Pool gates and barriers can usually fail if their structure is compromised or the latching mechanism isn't working properly.

How to Sue for Negligence for a Drowning Incident

If you have a loved one that has suffered or died from a drowning accident, your first step would be to contact our premises and product liability lawyers by submitting your free case evaluation. We will review your case and contact you to discuss further action.

You have up to two years after the date of the drowning incident to file a lawsuit in Chicago, which means you will want to contact our attorneys as soon as possible to ensure your case can be filed in that timeframe. Learn more about who we are and how we can help you, or contact us today to get your claim started.