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 extremely hazardous to at-risk populations and unsuspecting children. Accidents involving pools can cause severe injuries, drowning, and in some cases death.
Each year, thousands of drowning and near-drowning incidents occur in the United States. Many of these accidents occur in swimming pools. If you or your child was injured in a swimming pool, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you to get the most out of your claim while you focus on recovery. Contact the experienced swimming pool injury attorneys at Abels & Annes for a free consultation.
Children are at Particular Risk of Drowning
Every year the news is filled with devastating stories about parents who lost a child because of drowning. Most people think it will never happen to them, but that’s what every person who has suffered this horrible tragedy thinks. The truth is that most drownings are preventable. However, you need to understand the facts surrounding drownings and know how to prevent them from happening.
Children are curious by nature. As they are exploring the world, they are learning to become adults. This can mean wandering, testing limits, and getting into potentially dangerous situations.
One of the ways that children drown every year is in a pool that was not properly closed off. Sometimes this is the family's own pool, and sometimes it may be the neighbor's pool. This is why local and state laws require pools to be fenced in and protected in specific ways.
Young children are at an especially high risk of drowning. In fact, drowning is one of the largest causes of death among children ages 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 than 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 incident 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 a broken gate can be considered negligence on the part of the pool owner and can lead to liability in the case of an accident.
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.
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 is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is often caused by a lack of oxygen during a near-drowning incident. 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.
Another serious pool-related injury is damage to the spinal cord 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.
Slip and fall injuries are also a very common injury involving swimming pools. One common reason for falls around a pool include poorly maintained deck surfaces. This can include rotten wood, cracked concrete, or other tripping hazards. A person who slips in this situation can suffer from a wide range of injuries such as bruising, broken bones, broken teeth, internal injuries, head and brain damage, and injuries to the limbs. The damage done in the initial fall can lead to further injuries like loss of vision and loss of hearing. Regardless of the injury, the damages caused by a swimming accident can be significant.
Safety Tips to Prevent a Swimming Pool Accident
Supervise Young Swimmers
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.
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. They should also be taught the other aspects of pool safety including the dangers of running on wet surfaces and how it can lead to serious injury.
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.
Improve Swim Skills
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 flotation devices like life vests. These courses are especially important for young children to prevent accidental drownings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swim lessons for all children as a layer of protection against drowning. Recent studies suggest that water survival training and swim lessons can help reduce drowning risk for all children, even those as young as one to four years old. Deciding when to start these lessons is a personal decision. But many parents are surprised to learn that infants as young as 1 year old can be taught to save their own life.
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. Alcohol can also make supervising young children more difficult, especially when used in excess.
In the event of an accident there are some steps that should be taken immediately. The first thing that should be done once the victim has been removed from the water is notify emergency services. Next, begin administering CPR if the victim is not breathing or unresponsive. This should be continued until emergency personnel are on the scene and can begin providing more expansive life saving measures.
Premises Liability for Swimming Pool Accidents
Those who suffer injuries in a swimming pool accident may be able to hold the property owner responsible for their injuries. You may have heard about premises liability in terms of slip and fall. But the idea behind these types of personal injury claims also applies to swimming pools.
Many swimming pool accidents are a direct result of negligence on behalf of the property owner who may have failed to provide basic safety measures to those who use the pool.
Proving Negligence in a Swimming Pool Injury Case
In order to hold the owner accountable, it is necessary to show that the owner had a duty of care to provide a reasonably safe environment. All pool owners have this duty. If this duty was breached, and your injuries are a direct result of this breach, they can be held liable for damages that resulted from their negligence by having to reimburse you for your losses.
This compensation is meant to help injury victims with damages like medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
When drowning results in death, the legal proceedings may shift to a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases are meant to compensate a family for loss of their loved one, including for funeral expenses, left-behind medical bills, and the surviving family’s pain and suffering.
In a swimming pool accident, the liable party may be a homeowner, business owner, or government entity.
For example, a hotel owner may be found liable for a drowning death if their pool was improperly maintained or a gate was unable to latch closed.
A homeowner may be held liable if they fail to properly secure their pool or otherwise don't take steps to prevent children from entering their pool unexpectedly.
The Private Swimming Pool Enclosure Act in the state of Illinois requires all new outdoor swimming pools on private residential properties be enclosed by a barrier, such as a wall or fence, that is at least 42 inches tall. It is important to have an understanding of these codes so in the event of an accident you know your rights.
Illinois Laws Regarding Swimming Pool Safety
The main laws that regulate pools in Illinois are premises liability and the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Under premises liability laws, property owners have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe from hazards. This includes keeping a pool and the surrounding area in good condition and providing adequate security around the area.
The attractive nuisance doctrine says that property owners must take reasonable care to keep their property free from hazards that may potentially harm a child. This extends to include items on the property that may attract a child to trespass onto the premises, including a swimming pool.
These children do not fully understand the dangers associated with pools. Therefore, it is up to adult citizens to prevent attractive hazards.
Residential swimming pools must be completely surrounded by a barrier that is at least 42 inches tall. However, this rule does not apply to hot tubs or above-ground pools taller than 42 inches.
Public pools in Illinois also have to follow certain laws. This includes posting a sign stating whether or not there is a lifeguard on duty and a sign with the pool rules and regulations.
Public pools also have to be closed in with a fence that is at least four feet high, can’t be easily climbed, and has a self-closing and self-latching gate.
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 while using a swimming pool, you may have a claim for damages. This may include medical bills, lost wages, past and future expenses, and other damages caused by the incident.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Swimming Pool Attorney
Only a skilled swimming pool accident attorney can help you determine what your rights are and whether you have a case for a recovery.
If you have been injured, 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.
Call our toll free number at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575. Or if you prefer, contact us online here.