Many people assume that pools and water slides are safe. However, our office receives an ever-growing number of phone calls from victims—and their families—who sustained accidental catastrophic injuries or drowned while enjoying the pleasures of resort pools or water parks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury and death. Sadly, the majority of drowning accidents involve children under the age of 14. A drowning can occur in less than a minute even in the shallowest of water if a safety protocol is not carefully followed.
All resort pools and water parks are manmade constructions intended to provide pleasure. Their owners and operators have a legal obligation to prevent accidents and drownings from happening by implementing reasonable safety measures. I am currently working on a case where four individuals were improperly guided into a poorly monitored water slide at a leading water park, and all ended up unconscious and badly injured as the result of a catastrophic accident that could have been easily prevented.
Vacations are for relaxation, not disaster. Yet a surprising number of hotels endanger their guests by failing to provide them with qualified supervision while they’re swimming. Hotel water emergencies are no joke; they can easily lead to catastrophic injuries and drowning. Yet, too often, they take place in the presence of lifeguards who are distracted and unable recognize the signs of a swimmer in distress. What hotel managers fail to realize is that hiring lifeguards who would rather flirt with sunbathers than protect swimmers is just as bad as not having lifeguards at all. Either scenario is a prescription for disaster.
I recently returned from a vacation at a five- star resort and was surprised to find that three of its four pools—all filled to capacity—either had distracted lifeguards or none at all. As a swimming pool and drowning accident attorney, I was even more astounded by the scene at this mega-resort of a swimming pool loaded with toddlers and young children playing on an unmonitored water slide.
Common Causes of Pool Injuries in Philadelphia
According to a study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical center, kids are likely to drown, or nearly drown, in swimming pools at a much higher rate than adults. Amongst these injuries diving injuries are some of the most catastrophic. Up to 5 percent of all spinal cord injuries are the result of diving accidents.
The CDC estimates that unintentional drowning in swimming pools causes around ten deaths per day, making accidental drowning’s the fifth leading cause of accidental injury and death in the United States. One harrowing statistic is that approximately 76% of these fatal drownings happen to children who are under the age of five years old. What is more frightening, especially for parents, is that 76% of these fatal accidents strike children under the age of five.
Regardless of the location, the majority of pool-related injuries are caused by factors such as:
- Lack of supervision – Unfortunately, people think that because there is a lifeguard on staff that their child is going to absolutely be protected from drowning. However, that is not the case. In addition, some parents or babysitters do not always pay close attention or even leave their children in a pool completely unsupervised.
- Swimming ability – Swimming is generally not a natural ability, it is something that has to be learned. However, even if you or your child has taken swimming lessons they may still be overcome by deep water or if they are at the beach by rough surf.
- Lifeguard inattentiveness – While lifeguards have been trained how to identify swimmers who are struggling and how to save a swimmer who is submerged, they can often miss telltale signs that a swimmer is struggling until it is too late.
The CDC has also determined that a lack of barriers and fences is the most common risk factor for drowning and other pool-related injuries. In less than five minutes and two inches of water, an innocent life could be lost. The Consumer Product Safety Commission continues to urge parents to watch children at all times around swimming pools and spas and practice other safety steps such as learning water safety and rescue skills like CPR, and installing anti-entrapment pool and drain covers.
Accidental Drowning Water Safety Laws and Regulations
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has developed voluntary guidelines, which include education and labeling, to address the hazard of children drowning in five-gallon buckets.
Arizona, California, Florida, and Oregon have all enacted statewide legislation that requires that some type of fencing be placed around swimming pools in private residences. In addition, many communities have enacted safety laws requiring some type of fencing around residential swimming pools.
Thirty-eight states have enacted boating safety laws requiring children to wear PFDs at all times when on boats or near open bodies of water. These laws vary in age requirements, exemptions and enforcement procedures. Recreational boats must carry one properly sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD, accessible and in good condition, for each person onboard.
Injuries and Drowning Risks from Pool Filtration Systems in Philadelphia
Pool filters take in water from the pool, then use high-pressure tanks to pump the water through filters before recirculating it back into the pool. Some filters also add chemicals at this stage to refresh the balance of chlorine and other chemicals in the pool water. For especially large pools, like public pools, hotel pools, or amusement park rides and swimming pools, the pressure may be immense. There are three common scenarios where the pressure and suction of a pool filter can cause serious injuries or even death.
The force of a pool filter’s suction can cause injuries in strange and surprising ways. Many may think that these kinds of injuries are urban legends or myths told as cautionary tales, but dozens of people across the country face serious injuries and risks each year because of dangerous pool filters. Most cases affect children and can result in anywhere from the mere risk of injury to serious, life-altering injuries or death.
The first potential accident involves the pressurized tanks. Pool filtration systems that use pressurized tanks run the risk of becoming over-pressurized, which can lead to explosions or other issues if the tank is breached or breaks. If the tank is poorly designed or its pressure is overloaded because of clogging or poor maintenance, the tank could burst. An exploding water tank can cause shrapnel to fly outwards, and both the sudden force of the bursting tank and the sharp shrapnel can cause serious injuries. These accidents more commonly affect maintenance staff and owners of pools who perform their own maintenance but may also injure passers-by.
The suction itself is also an incredible risk. Many believe that stories about injuries from the suction of a pool filter are just stories, but there are news reports and recorded statistics that show these risks are real. Most of these accidents affect small children, who are more vulnerable to the strong suction of a pool filter – and are more prone to be attracted to touching or investigating these dangerous filters without knowing any better.
If a pool filter’s suction is strong enough, a child could become trapped against the force of suction. This can keep the child underwater, leading to the second common injury: drowning injuries. Drowning is not always fatal, and if your child is stuck to a pool filter, there is a chance that they may merely face the risk of injury. However, if your child is trapped underwater long enough, they could be unable to hold their breath, lose consciousness, and begin to drown. While hopefully a lifeguard or bystander can rescue them, any time spent without oxygen is incredibly dangerous and could have lasting effects.
Lastly, pool filters can cause direct damage to the body. If a child is very young or small, the suction could injure their skin or even pull at internal organs. Especially if the child’s mouth or bottom is placed against the filter, the force of the filter’s suction could actually pull their intestines or other internal organs out by force. These evisceration or disembowelment injuries can be fatal or could lead to serious complications and life-changing injuries, plus a long, painful recovery.
Filing a Lawsuit Injuries Caused by a Pool Filter in Philadelphia
Many of the injuries stemming from the pressure or suction with pool injuries can lead to lawsuits based on a few different legal theories. First, you may be able to sue the pool owner or operator for negligent supervision. If your child is injured while lifeguards or the pool’s owner are supposed to be watching them, their lack of supervision could be considered negligence that puts them at fault for the injuries. Second, you may be able to sue based on a theory that the dangerous filter was a hidden danger on the owner’s property, which should have been made safe for guests. With exploding filters, the hidden danger theory also applies. Lastly, you may be able to take the pool filter manufacturer to court. The filtration system may have a design defect, may have been poorly manufactured or installed, or may have required more substantial warnings of its risks. These issues could make the manufacturer or installer liable for the injuries.
The damages in a serious injury case can be substantial. If you or your child faced serious bodily harm, you could be entitled to medical expenses, past and future wages that are lost due to the injury, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering. Talk to an attorney today to see what your case might be worth, and never accept a settlement before talking to a lawyer about your case.
Prove Negligence in Swimming Pool Injuries or Drownings in Philadelphia
If someone you know or a child is a victim of an accidental drowning then you may be able to bring a suit against the place where the drowning occurred. Under Pennsylvania Code § 18.42, a recreational swimming establishment must have on duty an adequate number of certified lifeguards to protect the safety of users, according to Pennsylvania Code § 18.42. This is to ensure that an adequate number of certified lifeguards are on duty at any given time, the operator of a facility where people will be swimming must have at least one certified lifeguard for every 4,000 square feet of water surface area.
The public swimming pool also must have a certain number of life-saving devices, according to Pennsylvania Code § 18.43. One or more reaching devices must be available, according to the law. This could include poles and ropes. Flotation devices, such as buoys and life jackets, also must be available, in addition to a standard 24-unit first aid kit.
In order for a person to be able to recover for any injuries and damages resulting from an accidental drowning, they will have to prove that the facility or the workers were negligent. Proving negligence in swimming pool accident cases can be very difficult but is not impossible. A person must prove his or her injury or the death of a loved one was the result of another person’s negligence. This means that you will have to prove that the facility or person owed you a duty of care, that they breached the duty of care, that their negligence caused the injury, and that you suffered damages as a result of their negligence.
If Your Child or Loved One was Injured or Drowned in a Pool in Philadelphia, Our Attorneys Can Help
Please contact us promptly if your child or someone you know has been the victim of an accidental drowning. If you or someone you care about has been injured please call our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys for your free & confidential consultation at (215) 709-6940 or contact us online.