Children are at Particular Risk of Drowning
Whether they are public or private, swimming pools are everywhere in the warmer months in Illinois. Pools appeal to both adults and children looking for a way to relax and enjoy the water but they can be dangerous and even deadly.
Thousands of people in America drown every year and many of these deaths occur in swimming pools. These deaths are often caused by improperly designed or maintained pools, lack of safety equipment or fencing, and general negligence by the owners, operators, or supervisors of the pools.
Young children are at an especially high risk of drowning, with drowning being one of the largest causes of death among children age one to four. About one in five people that drown are children under the age of 14, and for every child in that age group that drowns, another five receive treatment at an emergency room for submersion injuries. Across all age groups, 80 percent of all drowning victims are males, making them at a particular risk for swimming pool injuries and deaths.
Why do Drownings Occur?
While people generally think of drownings occurring in large bodies of water, the fact is that it only takes a few inches of water to make a drowning possible. Individuals of any age are susceptible to swimming pool drowning but there are factors that increase the likelihood of death, including:
- Lack of Swimming Skills – Many people do not know how to swim and still others have weak swimming skills. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to drown that people with stronger skills in the water. This is particularly prevalent among small children who have not had a proper introduction to water safety and a basic swimming proficiency class.
- Lack of Life Saving Floatation Devices – Weaker swimmers are more likely to drown if they do not wear a life vest or other life saving floatation device. Also, pools without life preservers to pass to a swimmer in need of assistance are more likely to experience a drowning than those with the proper safety equipment available.
- Missing Fence or Other Guard Devices – While many pools may be properly surrounded by fencing, there are a large number that are missing fences or that have fences that do not provide adequate protection against unintended use. Many states, cities, and localities require fencing around a pool because a pool attracts the attention of small children, encouraging them to breach the water without permission or with a lack of supervision. If children are able to enter a pool area without the knowledge of an adult, an accidental drowning is more likely to occur. It is not enough to simply have a fence, though. The fence must adequately prevent intruders or unintended persons from entering the pool area, meaning that the fence must be present on all sides and of an adequate height to keep others out. Things like an improperly maintained fence or gate in the fence can be negligence on the part of the pool owner and can lead to liability in the case of an accident.
- Medical Conditions – Certain medical conditions, including those that cause a person to pass out, lose consciousness, or have a seizure, can make drowning in a swimming pool more likely. If a swimmer suffers from a medical condition that places her at a greater risk while in the water, there should be a heightened level of supervision present and available so that the swimmer can receive assistance if it becomes necessary.
- Alcohol – While many drownings involving children are caused by a failure to properly supervise a child or a failure to have appropriate safety gear in place, a large number of drownings involving adults and teenagers involve alcohol. Alcohol affects the central nervous system and slows reaction time, making it more likely that a swimmer will struggle in the water if she has been drinking. Additionally, the legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21 year old so anyone under that age is not allowed to drink or to be given alcohol by adults, meaning that anyone who contributes to a minor consuming alcohol may also be liable for any injuries the minor incurs.
Water-related Injuries other than Drowning
The focus of swimming pool accidents often revolves around drownings but there are many other types and kinds of injuries that occur in pools each year. One of the most serious can be a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) that is often caused by a lack of oxygen. When a swimmer remains submerged in water, oxygen cannot flow to the brain and throughout the body as it needs to, causing a lack of oxygen in the brain which can lead to permanent damage. The symptoms of a TBI can be wide and varying but often include concentration problems, memory loss, learning disabilities, lack of cognitive function, and inability to care for oneself, causing a swimmer to incur medical and sometimes lifelong therapy costs.
Other serious pool-related injuries include broken bones in the spine that can lead to paralysis. The improper placement of a diving board in water that is too shallow, the defective design of a swimming pool, or other factors can lead a swimmer to break his or her neck or back while in the water, often striking the bottom of the pool at a high rate of speed when diving into shallow water. These injuries may require surgical repair and often result in permanent paralysis to the swimmer, requiring lifelong medical and nursing care.
Swimming pool accidents can also result in broken bones, broken teeth, internal injuries, head and brain damage, loss of vision, loss of hearing, and serious injuries to the limbs. Regardless of the injury, the damages caused by a swimming accident can be significant.
Safety Tips to Prevent a Swimming Pool Accident
Most swimming pool accidents occur as a result of negligence and can be prevented with proper care and supervision. If you are planning to go swimming or to allow a child to swim, always have at least two people present. No one should swim alone in case of an emergency that requires help or assistance from another. Using the buddy system can save lives and prevent injuries.
All swimmers should consider taking a basic water safety course designed for swimming in pools or other bodies of water. This will help swimmers become familiar with techniques that can keep them safe while in the water, like learning to tread water, utilizing the “dead man’s float,” and the benefits of floatation devices like life vests.
A drowning can occur in a matter of minutes and it only takes a second to sustain a serious or fatal injury while in a pool, so children of all ages should be closely supervised at all times while in the water. Children should be taught to understand water and appreciate its dangers while still being allowed to have fun in a pool.
It is a good idea to limit the time children spend in the water to keep them from getting exhausted, especially on hot, sunny days when swimming outdoors. If you or your child has a medical condition that puts them at risk while in the water, make sure other adults at the pool are aware of it, as well as any lifeguards present, so that help can be given if it is needed.
Finally, never drink alcohol before or during the time when you are swimming. It presents a significant risk to the swimmer and increases the odds of drowning or suffering other severe injuries.
Legal Relief for Victims of Chicago Swimming Pool Accidents
Swimming pools can be a fun way to relax and enjoy the weather but they can prove deadly with a simple turn of events. If you have been injured or if a family member has been injured or killed, you may have a claim for damages, including medical bills, nursing care necessary, lost wages, and any past and future expenses that are likely to occur.
Only a skilled swimming pool accident attorney can help you determine what your rights are and whether you have a case for a recovery, so if you have been injured, please call Abels & Annes, P.C. today to discuss your case. We have an attorney ready to speak with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so please call us toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575. Or if you prefer, contact us online here.