If you are here, it is likely that you or someone you know is in the midst of a terrible tragedy – an accidental pool drowning. Sadly, you are not alone. An average of 3,536 fatal drownings occurred in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, approximately one out of every five of these fatal drownings involved a child under the age of 14.
Property owners have a duty to the public to keep their premises reasonably safe. Pools and other water features are no exception. Property owners must be diligent in maintaining the proper function and safety of pool equipment and lighting. They should also be clear in their rules for usage including posting signs to alert people of any hazards and risks. When a breach of duty occurs, it can lead to accidental drownings or near-drownings.
If your loved one nearly or completely drowned in a pool in New York because a property owner was negligent in keeping their premises safe, you may be entitled to financial recovery for your losses. Buttafuoco & Associates focus solely on personal injury cases, many of them involving children who drowned in public and private pools. Drowning cases are hard to navigate and fault is not always readily apparent. For this reason, you should consider calling us today to discuss your case with a New York drowning accident lawyer at no cost. We can guide your next steps.
Is there more than one type of drowning accident?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines drowning as, “The process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” Fatal drowning occurs when the person cannot reach the surface and eventually suffocates due to lack of oxygen and water in the lungs.
Near drowning is when a person is prevented from surfacing for a prolonged period, but can surface before death occurs. Depending on the length of time the person is unable to breathe, they can suffer brain damage, lung damage or hypothermia.
Dry drowning is a phenomenon where a person breathes in water, but it does not reach the lungs. The trauma of water entering the airways causes the vocal chords to swell, making breathing difficult.
Secondary drowning is a similar condition in which a person may have trouble breathing or suffer pulmonary edema due to a small amount of inhaled water. Both dry drowning and secondary drowning can manifest after removing the person from the water.
How and where can unintentional drownings occur?
Unintentional drownings can occur in pools, lakes, ponds or any body of water that is unsupervised or unguarded. When the body of water is owned or controlled by another party, that party is responsible for maintaining its reasonable safety and is thereby liable for injuries stemming from negligence.
The above-mentioned drownings can occur when any one of the following risks is present:
- Inexperienced swimmer
- Injury that prevents surfacing (broken limb, unconscious, seizure)
- Entrapment under water by pool filter or suction outlet
- Rip current (in oceans)
The most common cause of unintentional drownings is negligent supervision and failure to prevent entry to the body of water. Residential swimming pools installed after 2006 are required to have:
- A pool alarm to sound when a person enters the water
- A 4-foot or taller barrier to obstruct access
- Covers on suction outlets and drains to prevent entrapment
Commercial swimming pools such as those at the YMCA and city-owned swimming halls have similar requirements for safety.
Who is responsible for my loved one’s drowning accident?
Identifying who is at fault for a drowning accident requires the victim or their family to determine the following:
- Who was responsible for maintaining the pool.
- Whether or not the pool was properly secured or supervised during the accident.
- Who owns the pool.
- Whether or not the victim was permitted to be in the pool.
A lack of permission to use the pool can create a legal gray area in the event an adult or older child trespasses on another’s property and suffers injury. However, the law typically does not hold young children liable for their injury if the pool was easily accessed. A concept called “attractive nuisance” may apply to instances where a young child suffers an injury on an easily accessible and attractive property feature (pools, trampolines, etc.).
After establishing fault, the victim or victim’s family must establish the extent of the damages suffered as a result of the accident. Damages from a drowning or near drowning accident can include:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability
Pain and suffering damages, while not commonly awarded, may apply if a close family member witnessed the drowning death and suffered emotional damage.
Speak with a New York Drowning Accident Attorney for Free
A significant number of drowning victims are children, and at Buttafuoco & Associates, we understand the suffering parents go through after losing or nearly losing their child. We provide free consultations to grieving families recovering from the loss or injury of a loved one. Call us at 1-800-NOW-HURT to schedule your no-obligation consultation.