All year round, swimming pools are a great way to relax, have fun, and get some exercise. But while they can offer hours of entertainment, there are also many dangers. A fun day out can quickly become a tragic turn of events if you, a child, or a loved one is involved in a swimming pool accident.
How Dangerous Are Swimming Pool Accidents?
Swimming pool accidents aren’t reserved for large public pools — they can happen anywhere, from a hotel hot tub to the kiddie pool in your backyard. Swimming pool injuries can range from a small slip or a broken bone to permanent disability. In the worst case, accidents can be fatal.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight how dangerous swimming pool accidents can be.
According to the public health agency, more than 60% of fatal drownings of 0-4 year-olds occur in swimming pools. Additional data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that there are, on average, 6,700 pool or spa-related non-fatal drowning injuries treated at a hospital emergency department (ED) each year.
Common Swimming Pool Injuries
In cases where drowning isn’t fatal, it can cause significant — and sometimes long-term and life-altering — injuries.
When water gets into the lungs, it stops oxygen from getting to the brain. Just three minutes without oxygen causes most people to lose consciousness, and the damage only worsens the longer a person is in the water. At five minutes, the risk of brain damage increases and can result in memory loss, a learning disability, or put the person in a permanent vegetative state.
Cuts and bruises are common swimming pool injuries, often caused by a slip and fall accident. However, if a person slips and lands awkwardly on their spine or hits their head, they might suffer more than just a few bumps and bruises. Blows to the head can cause severe brain damage, while a spinal cord injury might result in permanent paralysis. In both cases, these injuries are life-changing. Even concussion, which is often temporary and the least severe type of traumatic brain injury, can profoundly impact a person’s health, livelihood, and wellbeing by causing fatigue, depression, and a host of other problems.
Common Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents
Now we know what different swimming pool injuries can happen, how are they often caused?
A swimming pool accident can happen at any time. It may be a simple accident where no one is at fault or a serious negligence case. Here, we look at some of the most common causes of swimming pool accidents and injury.
Drinking alcohol with your friends can be fun, but it can quickly become dangerous if you decide to head to the pool. Another statistic from the CDC reveals that intoxication is responsible for nearly one in four visits to the ED for drowning and up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation.
Alcohol naturally reduces inhibitions and can impair judgment and reduce coordination. Drinking in the summer also comes with the risk of sun exposure, making you dehydrated and worsening the negative effects of alcohol. Add a pool to this scenario, and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Lack of Supervision
This is one of the most common causes of pool accidents because it only takes a few moments without supervision for disaster to strike.
At home, a child may slip and fall and be left hurt or in a life-threatening situation if alone, even for just a couple of minutes. In a public pool, lack of supervision can equally be an issue.
Public swimming pools are not required by law to have a lifeguard on duty, but pool owners are required to post signs notifying users if a lifeguard is not present. If a sign is not posted or a lifeguard is negligent of their duties, the swimming pool owner may be responsible for any injuries.
However, having a lifeguard on duty doesn’t entirely prevent drowning or swimming pool accidents from happening. Lifeguards must watch multiple people and react quickly in an emergency, but overcrowding can be an issue. Too many people in one pool can make it difficult for lifeguards to spot swimmers in need of rescue. If a pool is past its limit and staff continue to let swimmers in, the owner can be found responsible for any injuries that occur.
All people, and especially children, need to be protected from the dangers of water. Having a four-sided isolation fence around a pool can prevent children from drowning by up to 83% compared to non-isolated swimming pools. Swimming pool owners also have to ensure barriers aren’t faulty. If latches aren’t secure, swimmers can gain access, while large gaps can provide enough room for small children to squeeze through.
Lack of Maintenance
Regular maintenance of the entire swimming pool area is crucial to reduce hazards. Many swimming accidents occur because pools fail to have appropriate signage displaying water depth at different levels. This can result in novice or untrained swimmers getting into the deep end and struggling to stay afloat.
Lighting can also be an issue. If pools are not adequately lit, swimmers may struggle to find their footing and slip, while lifeguards will have trouble monitoring swimmers in low light.
Another cause of swimming pool injuries is murky water. All public pools have filtration systems that keep the water clear and clean. If these aren’t maintained, the water can quickly turn cloudy, making underwater swimmers impossible to spot.
Slippery or Uneven Decks
The area around a swimming pool can also be dangerous. With people regularly climbing in and out of a pool, you might expect certain areas to be more slippery than others. Still, owners are responsible for taking precautions to minimize slipperiness and prevent slip and fall accidents as much as possible.
Diving boards and concrete decks can become extremely slippery surfaces, but many slip and fall accidents are preventable. Standing water, leaking faucets, backed-up drains, and the use of certain chemicals are just a few common causes of excess water that can increase the likelihood of an accident.
Loose tiles can also be a trip hazard and lead to severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries or spinal trauma. The onus is on the swimming pool owner to regularly check swimming pool decks for any hazards and put up appropriate barriers to prevent access.
Decontaminants are used in public swimming pools to keep the water sanitized and clear. Often, chlorine is used, but the incorrect amount can be dangerous to swimmers. Too little, and not only will the water turn murky, but it can also make swimmers sick because there’s not enough chlorine to kill bacteria.
Overexposure to chlorine can also cause sickness, especially if swallowed, as well as skin and eye irritation.
Loose or Faulty Drain Suction
Swimming pool drains present potentially dangerous situations for people, especially young children. In the past, the powerful suction has trapped hair, limbs, or swimwear with devastating results, including drowning and lacerations. Under federal law, swimming pools must have an anti-entrapment device installed to keep swimmers from being caught in the drainage system. However, pools lacking double-drain systems or with defective drains could cause fatal or nearly fatal swimming pool injuries.
When to Hire a Swimming Pool Accident Lawyer
If your swimming pool injury occurred a while ago, you might still be eligible. Under the statute of limitations in Texas, you have two years from the accident date to file a personal injury claim.
A swimming pool accident lawyer will assess whether the accident happened due to negligence on the part of the swimming pool operator and seek compensation on your behalf.
The amount you’ll be entitled to will depend on the circumstances of your accident, including the extent of the damage and evidence to support it (for example, medical records). You may receive compensation not just to cover past and future medical expenses and loss of earnings but also for the pain and suffering caused by your swimming pool accident. This is especially the case if your injury has caused long-term disability or permanent brain damage.
If someone has tragically lost their life due to a swimming pool accident, our swimming pool injury attorneys can handle your case. No amount of compensation can ever satisfy the mental anguish of losing a child, companion, or family member in an accident, but we can get justice for your loved one.
To speak to a swimming pool accident lawyer in McAllen or San Antonio about your case, you can contact us online or give us a call on 855-LAW-NINJA. Your consultation will be free, and you’ll never pay a fee until we win your case.