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What You Need to Know About Premises Liability and Swimming Pools
Summer is the perfect time for families and friends to enjoy the great outdoors and take advantage of the pool. Texas has many miles of Gulf coastline, rivers, lakes, waterparks, and swimming pools. Swimming is one of the most popular athletic activities in the US, especially in the blistering hot Texas summers. However, this does not come without a cost; Texas is currently #1 in the nation for the most pool drowning deaths. Texas property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises in a safe and hazard-free condition and to remedy any known dangers in a timely manner to prevent accidents from happening. If you are planning on hosting a cookout or pool party, it is your duty to inspect your property and be alert for potential hazards as well as to provide responsible pool ownership and maintenance.
Swimming pools are notoriously dangerous, especially for young children. Before anyone gets near a pool, it is important to make sure that everyone can swim. Texas property owners must take special care to address potential swimming pool accident liability. If a property owner does not take proper steps to ensure that their pool is legally compliant and secured or provide appropriate supervision of swimmers in the pool, they could be held liable for any injuries that occur.
Drowning Statistics in Texas
Drowning is the number two cause of accidental death in children ages 15 and under (behind vehicle accidents). For adults, it’s the 5th leading cause of accidental death. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 3 children lose their lives daily due to drowning, and if they manage to survive, the oxygen starvation results in life-altering injuries. According to a report by Soundings, approximately 750 children will drown next year, and about 375 of them will be within 25 meters of a parent or other adult. In 10% of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, but have no idea it is happening.
For those that survive, recovery from drowning could last a lifetime. When drowning, oxygen stops flowing to the brain and brain cells begin to die, causing the brain to swell against the skull which then leads to the loss of consciousness. According to research done by Phoenix Children’s Hospital between 5 and 20% of drowning survivors often experience brain trauma that results in the inability to walk, speak or even feed themselves.
What Causes Swimming Pool Accidents?
Swimming pool accidents are always preventable. Some of the most common causes of swimming pool accidents include:
- No lifeguard on duty or absence of lifeguard
- Lack of marking and restraints to section off the deep-water section of the pool
- Lack of restricted access (ie. No fencing or gates)
- Malfunction of pool
- Missing safety equipment
- Negligent pool maintenance
Premises Liability and Swimming Pool Accidents in Texas
The state of Texas premise liability law makes it easy for a person injured in an accident on another person’s property to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the property owner. These laws apply for both commercial establishments such as public swimming pools as well as personal residences. Although premises liability law is complex and contains legal nuances, it generally requires a property owner to warn guests of dangerous conditions on their property that they know of or to repair them.
What is the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine and How Does it Affect Me?
The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine is a legal principle that makes it possible for a trespasser to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a property owner under certain circumstances. While the claim is typically difficult, it is easier when the child is the trespasser who was injured or killed by the hazard. As long as the child lacks the ability to recognize the potential dangers of hazards such as an unguarded swimming pool, the child may be entitled to compensation for trespassing on to your premises to your unguarded swimming pool if an accident occurs.
How Can I Prevent Swimming Pool Accidents?
The best way to deal with swimming pool accidents is to prevent them from happening in the first place. We have put together prevention tips to ensure that you are safe from accidental drownings.
- Learn life-saving skills – Learn how to swim and teach your children how to swim. It is important for everyone to know the basics of swimming (moving through the water, floating, swimming) and CPR.
- Restrict Access – if you have a pool, install a four-sided fence around your backyard swimming pool with childproof locks to prevent slip and fall accidents or accidental drownings. This will help to keep children away from the area when there is no one there to watch them.
- Always have a life jacket – kids should always wear life jackets around natural bodies of water, even if they know how to swim. Life jackets can also be used for in and around swimming pools for weak swimmers.
- Be aware – when kids are near or in water (including bathtubs) make sure they are supervised at all times. Drowning happens quietly and quickly. Kids can also drown in “kiddie pools”. 57.2% of pool diving accidents occur in water 4ft deep or less.
What Happens if the Victim in a Swimming Pool Accident was Negligent?
Often, the person killed or injured in a swimming pool accident has been negligent themselves. Examples of negligence include; swimming while intoxicated, swimming alone after a pool has been closed, or engaging in horseplay around or in the pool. Under Texas law, the person who was partially responsible for their own injuries may still recover damages, as long as the victim was less than 51 percent responsible. However, the damages recovered will be reduced based on the percentage of fault credited to the victim.
Swimming Pool Accident Injuries
Drowning is not the only risk involved in pool accidents. Other common causes of swimming pool-related injuries include:
- Slip and fall accidents on wet surfaces surrounding the pool
- Diving board and slide accidents
- Injuries from contact with drains, pumps, motors, Polaris, and other equipment
Pool accidents can lead to concussions, broken bones, spinal cord injuries and even drowning deaths. Often, victims of swimming pool accidents require long-term medical care. Along with emergency hospitalization, victims of near-drowning injuries or spinal cord injuries frequently are transferred to other medical facilities and rehabs for continued treatment. In many cases, pool accidents result in severe brain damage and permanent disabilities, requiring ongoing rehabilitation and in-home care.
Does Insurance Cover Swimming Pool Liability?
While a homeowner’s insurance policy may offer coverage for a pool, any sort of coverage, even the most inclusive policy a homeowner can purchase, is not going to be enough to protect them should you or a child be seriously injured in the pool. Typically, pool owners are required to obtain a separate insurance policy for swimming pool liability, or an umbrella policy for the home, which would provide enough coverage for most accidents. Legal action may be required depending on the nature of the swimming pool accident and the willingness or the insurance company to pay for the damages sustained.
At Thompson Law, we understand what you are going through and have represented hundreds of clients going through this. You are not alone, and we are here to help you fight for the settlement you deserve. We have a record of success holding negligent parties and their insurers accountable. You can rely on us to aggressively pursue your case while you focus on what matters most, healing. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a swimming pool accident, call us today at 844-308-8180