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Atlanta Accidental Drowning Lawyer
Swimming pools, beaches, water parks, and boats can be dangerous areas for children as well as adults. Our Atlanta, Georgia accidental drowning lawyer knows that drownings can happen very quickly and with little or no warning. Children lose consciousness after approximately two minutes underwater 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 has been submerged for over 10 minutes.
People who survive a near-drowning can suffer lifelong consequences including severe, permanent hypoxic or anoxic brain damage. After four to six minutes underwater, the damage is usually irreversible. Drownings occur either on public or privately owned property.
Poor Pool Safety Conditions
Many incidents can be avoided by improving on and ensuring there are proper safety conditions met in and around pool areas. Hotels, apartment complexes, resorts, water parks, and other public pools have a legal responsibility to keep their patrons safe. Sometimes, proper security measures are not taken and this puts your loved ones at risk. Young children, babies, inexperienced swimmers, and others could be at increased risk if the pool area has one or more of the following safety risks:
- Broken ladders;
- Broken or no pool lights;
- Under-trained pool staff;
- No lifeguards;
- Lack of pool covers;
- No fencing around the pool area. This is extremely dangerous, as the pool can be easily accessed by any passerby;
- Lack of or no safety equipment;
- Exceeded pool limitations; and
If you lost a loved one due to these security risks, you need to call our Atlanta accidental drowning attorney immediately. We can help you hold negligent parties accountable and recover compensation for your losses.
Swimming Pool Drownings
The summer months in Georgia can be extremely warm and many families go to private and public pools for relief. Unfortunately, swimming pool drownings are far too common. Pools must be operated safely and appropriate safeguards should be in place to stop unsupervised children from being harmed. Contact us today if you have had a loved one who has drowned while using a swimming pool. We may be able to help.
What are the Common Reasons for Swimming Pool Drownings?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CHC), from “2005-2014, there was an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day.” While anyone is susceptible to drowning, children are particularly vulnerable.
- Approximately one in five people who die from drowning are under the age of 15.
- For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for “nonfatal submersion injuries.”
The CDC found that there are common risk factors associated with drowning deaths.
- Lack of Swimming Ability: Not surprisingly, the inability to swim is the number one risk factor associated with drowning.
- Lack of Barriers: As discussed above, children are particularly susceptible to drowning. This is because they will often fail to appreciate the dangers associated with water. Barriers (such as gates or pool covers) should be used to prevent unsupervised children from using the pool.
- Lack of Proper Supervision: Children who are not properly supervised are at a higher risk of drowning than those who are being monitored.
- Drug and Alcohol Use: Adolescents and adults can raise their risk levels through the consumption of drugs and alcohol.
There are many other factors that can make swimming pool use much more dangerous. Be aware that swimming can be a very dangerous activity and take steps to keep yourself and your family safe.
Who Might be Responsible for Pool Drownings?
There is a legal doctrine – referred to as the “attractive nuisance” doctrine – that says if a property owner creates a danger on their property that draws the unwary, then that property owner must take steps to prevent access to the danger. Under this doctrine, a property owner who installs a pool must take precautions to prevent children from accessing the pool without proper supervision. These precautions include:
- Gates and Barriers: A gate can be a wonderful way to keep unsupervised children out of the pool. Gates should be properly installed and maintained and designed to prevent children from gaining access.
- Pool Covers: Most private pools now have an option of including a motorized and tight sealing pool cover. These covers are designed to be child-proof and can offer great protection.
Of course, there is no substitute for attentive adult supervision. More children using a pool can make it difficult for one adult to keep everyone safe. Adults should also refrain from alcohol intake while supervising children in the pool. Safety first!
Private Swimming Pool Owners and Operators
Private homeowners are not the only ones who are responsible for the safe operation of their pools.
Public Pool Operators
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, ensure gates and locks are in good working order to prevent unauthorized or unsupervised use of pools and spas. They must also:
- inspect and properly maintain the pool or hot tub drain covers to prevent suction entrapment;
- hire qualified lifeguards;
- post warning signs; and,
- provide appropriate life-saving equipment
Finally, pool operators must undertake such other safety measures as may be reasonable under the circumstances.
PRIVATE POOL OPERATORS
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. Generally, hotels, as well as the owners and operators of public pools, pools in private homes, apartment complex pools, and condo association pools, have liability insurance that covers them for personal injury or wrongful death claims arising out of accidental drownings caused by their negligence.
- Hotels: Hotels frequently provide their guests with swimming pools. These pools must be kept clean and safe for guests. Often hotels and other private swimming pool owners will try to limit their liability by hanging warning signs or pool instructions. These instructions must be clearly visible, designed to be understood by guests, and appropriate for that specific pool area.
- Private Swimming Facilities: Facilities that profit from providing open swimming or swimming lessons must take steps to ensure that their guests are protected. This can mean having a qualified lifeguard on duty whenever there are guests in the pool.
Any business that uses a pool to entice guests is responsible for the safe operation of that pool. Businesses must never be allowed to place profits ahead of the safety of your family. Please contact us online or call Ponton Law today at 404-418-8507 if you or a loved one has been injured while using a pool.
Public Pool Lifeguard Responsibilities
During the summer months in Atlanta and surrounding areas, many families will try to escape the summer heat by enjoying public pools. These fun and relaxing times can become a nightmare when a child or loved one drowns or suffers from a near-drowning experience.
To prevent people from drowning, each public pool must have appropriate safety measures in place, which include having trained lifeguards on duty. If the pool fails to have lifeguards on duty or if the pool negligently hires non-qualified lifeguards and someone is killed or injured, then that pool owner/operator should be held liable for the resulting pain and suffering.
Contact Atlanta accidental drowning attorney James Ponton by calling 404-418-8507 to discuss your case. We are here to help.
The responsibilities of a lifeguard may change somewhat from pool to pool, but generally, all lifeguards have the following responsibilities:
- Maintain constant surveillance of pool patrons;
- Respond immediately and appropriately to ensure patron safety in the event of an emergency;
- Provide emergency care and treatment as required until emergency medical responders have arrived; and
- Perform maintenance of the pool to ensure that it is kept safe for use.
These responsibilities are expected of the pool owner/operator and those who choose to swim at the pool. Families allow their children to play at public pools precisely because they expect trained professionals to be monitoring the safety of the children.
In order to be able to properly perform the responsibilities listed above, a lifeguard should have the required training and certifications. Generally, a lifeguard should:
- Be able to react calmly and effectively in emergency situations;
- Have lifeguarding surveillance and rescue technique skills; and
- Be physically and mentally fit to perform all of the required responsibilities.
To become a lifeguard, most must attend courses and must be superior swimmers capable of swimming for sustained periods of time while maneuvering others through the water. These swimming courses should be rigorous and designed to simulate the most stressful of situations.
Furthermore, a lifeguard should be Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certified. These basic certifications will allow the lifeguard to respond to the most common types of emergencies that occur at swimming pools.
Public Pool Responsibilities
A pool (public or private) should never hire a lifeguard who is not qualified to perform the required responsibilities. Pool owners and operators should conduct thorough background checks on their lifeguards and ensure that each is properly certified and qualified.
A pool that hires a lifeguard who is not qualified or otherwise unable to perform the required responsibilities may be liable for any harm that occurs due to the lifeguard’s errors. We will conduct a complete review of the pool’s ownership and lifeguard hiring practices if you or a loved one is injured or killed while using a pool.
Accidental Drowning FAQs
Are There Different Types of Drowning?
It may surprise many to know there are different types of drowning. Most people are only aware of “wet” drowning – where the lungs are filled with water. However, there are other types of drowning such as “dry” drowning and “secondary” drowning.
What is Dry Drowning?
Dry drowning occurs when water agitates the upper airway causing the vocal cords to spasm. The spasms constrict the airway and cause suffocation. Symptoms relating to secondary drowning generally occur within an hour of water exposure.
What is Secondary Drowning?
Secondary drowning occurs when a small amount of water enters the lungs and disrupts tiny airways deep inside the lungs. Secondary drowning can occur up to 24 hours after the water has entered the lungs.
What are the Symptoms of a Drowning Victim?
Getting a drowning victim’s medical attention as quickly as possible is essential, therefore, being able to recognize that someone is drowning is critical. When someone is going through the drowning process they may show the following symptoms:
- Cold or bluish skin;
- Abdominal swelling;
- Chest pain;
- Shortness or lack of breath; and
What Should I Do if Someone is Drowning?
The American Heart Association offers courses to get cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification which can help save lives. You can find a course near you by visiting the American Heart Association website. There are some steps you can still do to help the drowning victim even if you do not have training.
- Seek emergency medical help: Dial 911 and follow the instructions given to you.
- Check for hazards: Making sure there are no hazards around the victim can be helpful. Remove obstructions surrounding the victim, only if you can do so safely.
- Guide emergency help: You may be able to help by standing outside of the pool area and directing emergency help to the victim when they arrive.
- Don’t make the situation worse: Do not attempt CPR, or any other medical procedure, without proper training or at the direction of an emergency medical professional.
What are the Common Causes of Drowning?
The single most common cause of drowning is the victim’s inability to swim. Getting properly trained at a young age can significantly decrease the likelihood of drowning. Other common causes of drowning include:
- Failing to properly safeguard unsupervised pools,
- Over-consumption of alcohol,
- Trip and falls near water, and
- Failure to respond appropriately when someone is drowning.
Be aware of your surroundings and recognize the dangers of water. There are important steps that you can take to keep yourself and your family safe when trying to enjoy pools or the beach.
Some Water Safety Tips to Keep my Family Safe?
Keeping yourself and your family safe around water should be the highest priority. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to stay safe.
- Learn to Swim. The ability to swim significantly reduces the chances of drowning. Children and adults should be properly trained before entering the water.
- Supervise When in or Around Water. Children should always have a designated adult watching their swimming activities. This means that there are enough adults present to watch all the children and that those adults remain focused on the task of supervision.
- Buddy System. The buddy system – where a pair is responsible for keeping track of each other – can help to significantly reduce the likelihood of drowning. However, the safety of children is everyone’s responsibility and children should not be allowed to monitor each other.
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Having proper training and certifications can mean the difference between life and death. CPR is used to help keep a drowning victim alive during the time it takes for medical professionals to arrive.
- Proper Safety Devices. Air-filled or foam toys are not meant to be safety devices. Certified and size-appropriate safety devices should be readily available at all times while enjoying the water.
- Avoid Alcohol. Adults who are in or near water, or adults who are charged with supervising children, should limit their alcohol intake.
- Check Forecast. Lightning strikes or other severe weather can make swimming extremely dangerous. Always check the forecast before entering the water (this is especially true for boaters).
There are additional steps that can be taken for safety if you have a private swimming pool.
- Install Fencing or Pool Covers. Proper safeguards should be in place around home swimming pools to prevent unsupervised children from drowning.
- Keep Pool and Surrounding Area Clear. Debris – such as toys – are a tripping hazard and should be kept out of and away from pool areas.
When Might a Pool Owner be Liable for a Drowning?
There are several different legal theories that could hold a private pool owner liable for drowning.
Attractive Nuisance: The “attractive nuisance” legal doctrine holds that when a property owner constructs a hazard on his or her property that is likely to attract the unwary, then that property owner must take appropriate safety steps. For example, a homeowner decides to install a pool in their yard knowing that the neighborhood has many small children who may become intrigued. The homeowner should recognize that these children do not recognize how dangerous water can be and should take steps to prevent unsupervised children from entering the pool.
Negligence: A pool owner might be liable if he or she acts negligently. To establish a negligence claim, it must be shown that the pool owner had a duty to act prudently and failed to do so. For example, a homeowner decides to install a slide into the pool but does so recklessly. The slide becomes dangerous as it sends children into the water dangerously close to the concrete edge. The homeowner allows children to use the slide despite knowing of the heightened risks. If a child were to use the slide and drown as a result of injuries suffered when the child hit the concrete edge, then the homeowner would be liable.
Inadequate Supervision: Inadequate supervision is a type of negligence that occurs when a private pool owner does not provide appropriate supervision over the pool users. Inadequate supervision can occur at homes or any other private pool (such as a hotel pool). An example of inadequate supervision is when a homeowner is hosting a children’s birthday party. The adults responsible for supervising all the children can become distracted or otherwise not be able to watch all the children at all times. If a child were to drown, then that homeowner might be responsible for having failed to adequately supervise.
An Atlanta Accidental Drowning Attorney Can Help You
At Ponton Law, we handle accidental drowning and near-drowning cases throughout the state of Georgia. These cases have the risk of death or serious injury results from the failure of public and private property owners and operators to take reasonable safety precautions under the circumstances. Ponton Law is committed to giving each client the time and attention he or she deserves. Our firm works as a team so that our clients get the benefit of the collective skill and effort of our experienced and highly trained attorneys, paralegals and investigators. Our legal team works relentlessly to obtain full and fair compensation for our clients and their families.
If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries or death in a near-drowning or drowning accident, contact our Atlanta accidental drowning lawyer at Ponton Law today at 404-902-3154 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. We offer a free case evaluation and we do not bill you for attorney’s fees and costs unless we obtain a recovery.