A relaxing day by the pool with friends and family can quickly turn tragic when a person suffers an injury or drowns. Swimming pool accidents are, unfortunately, quite common—resulting in hundreds of drownings and thousands of injuries across the United States every year.
If you or someone you love was hurt or died at a swimming pool in California, you may have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. There are several parties who might be liable for such an accident, so your attorney will need to perform a thorough investigation to determine fault and build the strongest claim possible.
Read on to learn who might be liable for damages after a swimming pool accident:
1. The Property Owner or Occupier
Property owners and occupiers have a duty to take reasonable steps to keep their premises safe for invitees. If you were injured by a hazard that the property owner knew about or should have known about through the exercise of reasonable diligence, you may have grounds for a premises liability claim.
In the context of swimming pool accidents, premises liability claims may be filed against:
- The owner of a commercial pool;
- The government entity that owns the pool, which might apply to swimming pool accidents that occur at public schools or municipal pools;
- The owner of a residential swimming pool; or
- The person or business that is in possession of the property—for example, if the pool or entire property was being rented by a third party, that party might be liable for any injuries or drownings that occur due to their failure to take reasonable precautions.
Most swimming pool-related premises liability claims involve inadequate pool maintenance or supervision. Below are just a few scenarios that may warrant such a claim:
- Lack of Warning Signs: A significant number of swimming pool injuries occur because people dive into shallow water. This can lead to brain trauma, spinal cord injuries, and even death. Property owners and occupiers may be liable for a swimming pool accident if they fail to post clearly visible warning signs indicating the depth of the water and the absence of a lifeguard. However, if the dangerous condition that led to the injury was so obvious that a person of ordinary prudence would have noticed it and avoided injury, the court might not find the property owner liable for the resulting damages.
- Inadequate Supervision: If an unsupervised child drowns in a pool on someone’s residential property, the owner of the premises might be held liable. Likewise, if a drowning occurs in a commercial swimming pool that is open to guests but there was no lifeguard on duty, the property owner may be liable. If a lifeguard was on duty but behaved negligently and this led to an injury or drowning, or the lifeguard lacked the necessary training, the property owner and/or the lifeguard’s employer may be held liable.
- Poor Maintenance: Swimming pools and safety equipment must be kept in reasonably safe condition. If the property owner failed to perform adequate maintenance—for example, if the bottom of the pool became slippery due to algae or the pool was only partially filled—he or she might be held liable for any injuries or drownings that occur as a result.
- Violating Laws or Ordinances: The state of California and many towns and cities have enacted laws and ordinances that govern how residential swimming pools must be constructed and maintained. Several of these laws are intended to reduce the risk of injuries and drownings. For example, property owners may be required to install fencing around the swimming pool and to use a pool cover. If a swimming pool accident occurs because a property owner violated a law or ordinance, he or she may be liable for the resulting damages.
2. A Government Entity
The government entity responsible for maintaining the pool may be held liable for an accident if the relevant employees knew or should have known about the dangerous condition that led to the incident but failed to take reasonable steps to remedy it. The government entity may also be held liable if its employees failed to perform adequate maintenance or to supervise swimmers.
If you intend to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a government agency, it’s important that you speak to an attorney right away. Filing a tort claim against the government is not the same as filing a claim against a private citizen. For example, before you can sue a state government entity for a personal injury or wrongful death, you need to file an administrative claim within six months of the accident. There are other procedural differences that make tort claims against the government particularly complex, but a seasoned attorney with the right experience can help you navigate the proceedings.
3. The Designer, Manufacturer, or Distributor of a Defective Product
If an injury or drowning occurs because the swimming pool or related equipment was faulty, the victim or surviving loved ones may have grounds for a product liability claim. Unlike most other types of personal injury cases, product liability is a strict liability claim, which means you will not need to prove the defendant was negligent to prevail.
Depending on the cause of the product defect, you might have grounds for a claim against the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the faulty pool, equipment, or component. If the defect occurred during installation, the person or company that performed the installation may be liable.
What Evidence Will My Swimming Pool Accident Lawyer Need to Prove Liability?
The answer depends on the cause of your injury and the circumstances of your accident. As a general rule, the more evidence your attorney has to prove liability and the stronger it is, the less likely the opposing party or insurance company will be to dispute your claim.
This is why it’s so important to hire a lawyer who has the right experience to handle your case. An attorney who is familiar with swimming pool accident claims will know the types of evidence to gather and how to approach the investigation.
Depending on the facts surrounding your case, the following evidence may help your lawyer prove liability:
- Photos of the hazard that caused your injuries;
- The police and/or incident report;
- Eyewitness testimony;
- Swimming pool maintenance records;
- Surveillance footage of the incident; and
- Testimony from experts regarding the cause of your accident. For example, if you were injured due to defective swimming pool equipment, your lawyer may bring in an expert who specializes in the design and manufacturing of that equipment.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Swimming Pool Accident Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Recovering a fair settlement after a swimming pool injury or drowning often involves an uphill legal battle. The smartest step you can take to protect your rights is to speak with an attorney at the earliest possible point in time.
At the Law Office of Michael D. Waks, we are well-versed in the laws that govern swimming pool accident claims in California. Attorney Michael Waks can review your case in a free consultation and help you determine the most strategic way to proceed. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Form to schedule a case evaluation with a premises liability attorney in Long Beach.
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