Who is Liable for a Swimming Pool Accident in North Carolina?
The summer months in North Carolina can be oppressively hot and many residents turn to swimming pools for temporary relief. Unfortunately, these trips can be dangerous as swimming pool accidents occur at an alarming rate and can involve everything from drowning to slipping on a diving board. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 10 people die from accidental drownings every day in America. Of those unintentional drownings, 20 percent are children under the age of 14 years old. While many swimming pool injuries only lead to scraped knees and a few minor bruises, others can have far more devastating repercussions, so if you or your child were recently injured in a swimming pool accident, it is critical to speak with an experienced Charlotte personal injury lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process.
Examples of Swimming Pool Accidents
Although drowning is one of the most well-known examples of a swimming pool accident, children can also be injured:
- In diving accidents;
- By electrocution;
- Through exposure to harmful bacteria and chemicals; and
- In slip and fall accidents.
These types of accidents can have serious and even deadly consequences ranging from broken bones to deadly infections and brain damage. Most often, these types of accidents are caused by one of a few different negligent actions, including:
- Defective pool parts;
- A lack of safety equipment;
- Defective diving boards;
- Inadequate pool maintenance or lighting;
- Improperly trained staff;
- Damaged pool ladders;
- A lack of lifeguards;
- Improper pool design or construction;
- Improper drains; and
- A lack of barriers in the pool area.
The level of care that a pool owner must use depends on the purpose of the property. For instance, the manager of a public pool or the owner of a hotel are required to adhere to strict guidelines regarding safety procedures and sanitation. For example, public pool owners are required to install proper concrete to minimize the risk of slipping as well as reasonably safe pool drains. Manufacturers, distributors, and retail sellers of pool equipment are also required to adhere to state and federal regulations to ensure that drains, flotation devices, and vacuums all comply with safety standards.
Private pool owners, on the other hand, have a lower responsibility to others and are only required to ensure that there is a barrier that blocks access to the pool by uninvited residents. However, if a pool owner invites guests onto his or her property, he or she will also have the duty to warn of any dangerous conditions in the area.
While it is a wonderful thing to have a loved one escape a drowning with his or her life, the reality is that more than 50 percent of drowning victims require hospitalization or further care. This care can require treatment for long-term physical and mental disabilities, memory problems, and a loss of basic body functions. For example, many swimming pool accidents involve the following injuries:
- Spinal cord damage, which usually occurs as a result of the placement of a diving board in shallow water;
- Chemical burns, which are a common result of the use of excessive chemicals, such as chlorine;
- Traumatic brain injury from striking the bottom of a pool; and
- Brain damage from an extended period without oxygen.
Many of these injuries require 24 hour nursing care and assistance for the rest of a child’s life. This is especially true for injuries sustained as a result of defective pool drains, which when improperly installed or designed can suck a child to the bottom of a pool and in other tragic cases can actually lead to disembowelment from the pressure. Treatment may require multiple surgeries, therapy, prescription medications, and the use of special medical equipment. These costs all add up and may quickly overwhelm a family’s finances. In cases involving a negligent pool owner, however, a child’s family may be able to collect compensation for the following:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages, which is often the result of a parent being forced to take time off from work to care for an injured child;
- Loss of future income, which refers to the loss of income that a child could have earned at a later date if he or she had not been injured; and
- Pain and suffering endured as a result of the injury.
Preventing Pool Injuries
While a pool owner’s ability to keep the pool area safe for visitors is vital to keeping children safe from drowning accidents, parents and guardians can also take some steps that will help decrease the chance of injury, including:
- Supervising children when they are near bodies of water;
- Teaching the importance of walking when in the pool area;
- Learning CPR and requiring babysitters to be certified as well;
- Keeping a cell phone nearby when swimming;
- Instructing children not to dive into pools that are less than six feet deep;
- Clearly explaining the meaning of the safety signs and depth markers to children; and
- Avoiding swimming during storms.
If swimming in a friend or neighbor’s private pool, it’s a good idea to take the following steps:
- Make sure pool users have access to flotation devices;
- Post CPR instructions;
- Remove pool covers completely before using the pool as children may be caught underneath;
- Ensure that all pool equipment, including diving boards are safe and in good condition;
- Install a pool fence that can only be opened by an adult;
- Teaching children not to swim without adult supervision; and
- Making sure that contractors use the best materials when constructing the pool.
While these precautions does not guarantee a child’s safety, they can go a long way towards helping protect your loved ones.
Contact a Dedicated Personal Injury Lawyer
Pool owners have a responsibility to ensure that their facilities are safe and hazard free. A failure to do so can result in devastating injuries and heartbreak. Being well-versed in prevention is key to avoiding these types of accidents, but in some cases, there is only so much that a parent or guardian can do on his or her own. Pool owners who fail to adhere to city regulations can and should be held responsible for their actions, so if your child was recently injured in a pool accident in the Charlotte area, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by completing one of our contact forms and we will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Charlotte at your earliest convenience.