The latest info, data and resources
It's hard to think of a Florida house without a swimming pool.
Because so many houses have pools, the likelihood of water accidents rises dramatically. Having a pool unfortunately means additional responsibilities for homeowners, and there are laws by which they must abide. This article is a broad overview of those statutes and regulations, and it also examines the accompanying data.
Swimming pool injuries and fatality statistics
Drowning is still a leading cause of death for children aged 1-4, varying among the top 5 depending on where you are in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that three children lose their lives every day, and even if deaths don't occur, near-drowning incidents result in life-altering injuries.
Parents always say, "I only looked away for a minute!" And that's true. It takes fewer than five minutes for a drowning accident to happen.
How swimming pool accidents occur
Many pool accidents happen because of reckless or negligent behavior. Sometimes it's just because the supervisor wasn't paying attention.
This can happen at any type of pool – a hotel pool, water park, a pool atop a cruise ship, private home pool or a friend's house.
Either way, the case would be a traditional negligence suit in which you need to prove the following:
- The plaintiff (injured person) must show the defendant owed a duty of care;
- The plaintiff must prove the defendant breached that duty;
- The breach must be the proximate (AKA legal) cause of the injury; and
- There must be damages.
Homeowners and pool owners can be held liable because the pools are their responsibility.
Florida property owners are required to maintain their premises in reasonably safe conditions and to warn of any known dangers. If they fail to do that and it results in injuries, they can be held liable for that resulting harm.
Florida has a law called the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (RSPSA), under which a property owner can be held negligent for failing to protect frail adults and children with at least one pool safety feature.
Injured plaintiffs will only have to prove negligence per se, meaning that the homeowner's negligence caused injuries – not that he or she had a duty and breached it. The plaintiff just has to show the results.
Some of these results can be included under the doctrine of "attractive nuisance."
The idea behind this is that children can't comprehend the same dangers as adults. They look at fire and think, "Oooooh, that's pretty." Because pools look fun and interesting, extra measures should be put in place to deter children from finding their way in.
Under the RSPSA, pool owners need to take active steps to cordon off their pools. This means that at the very least, all residential pools, spas and hot tubs must have one or more of the following:
- Pool cover
- Four-foot barrier around the entire pool
- Pool entrance with self-closing and self-locking mechanism
- Alarm for all doors and windows with direct access to pool area
Types of injuries in swimming pools
Near-drowning accidents can result in horrific accidents.
Submersion injuries cause oxygen starvation to the brain. They can occur because of the child's inability to swim, or faulty or malfunctioning swimming pool equipment. The biggest health concern is permanent damage to the brain. Other injuries happen when children become trapped in drains and suffer injuries to the bowels or other systems, which leave them with lifelong injuries.
Diving into shallow water also can result in traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries. These can cause permanent brain damage, which affects a person's cognitive abilities, language center, motor skills and many other functions. Neurological function will also suffer, ranging from the ability to breathe, to partial or complete paralysis.
Drowning-related disabilities are life-changing, in more ways than one. Medical costs for a patient of this caliber can reach up to $180,000 per year for long-term care. If there is brain damage, costs can reach $4.5 million over that patient's lifetime.
Statute of limitations – your time limit to bring a lawsuit
If an individual has been injured while swimming on another person's property, he or she has four years from the date of the accident to bring a case. However, if that person dies because of those injuries, then his or her estate only has two years to bring the claim. You will want to speak with an attorney as soon as possible in order to preserve your claim.
How to swim safely
Here are some tips for safer swimming:
- Make sure younger swimmers wear flotation devices, even if they complain about it
- Have adequate supervision for swimmers
- Responsible adults should refrain from using cell phones while watching children
- Don't swim alone
- Don't swim after drinking, smoking or using prescription medication
- Use pool noodles, tubes and other flotation devices (and really, who doesn't love pool noodles?)
- Learn CPR and lifesaving swimming techniques
Best swimming and personal injury resources in Florida
Here are some of the best organizations that are dedicated to teaching better swimming techniques and offering educational resources:
- Association of Pool and Spa Professionals: This organization offers information regarding safety equipment and standards around these common household items.
- Beach Warning Flag Program: This was created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. By using a system of color-coordinated flags of Florida's beaches, officials are able to warn beach-goers of tide and wave conditions, thereby reducing the risk of drowning.
- Blue Haven Pools & Spas: This flier provides basic pool safety rules that can never go amiss, even for people who have been swimming a long time.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: This "healthy swimming" site provides the latest educational data, info and statistics for everyone from swimmers to medical professionals.
- Custom Pools and Spas Orlando: This is a website that designs and sells pools and spas, yes, but it also walks you through literally every aspect of the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act, as well as the various safety precautions one can take (a gate, cover, alarm, etc.). Customized for Floridians, this site is extremely helpful – and also offers swimming lessons.
- Drowning Prevention Foundation: After suffering the worst – one child drowned while the other suffered irreparable brain damage when the babysitter's back was turned – Nadina Riggsbee started the Drowning Prevention Foundation to prevent drowning through public education.
- Florida Swimming Pool Association: This website is a monster. It has information regarding contractors, listings for contractors, safety rules, text for rules, what to expect during phases of construction, energy efficiency and more.
- Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention: This non-profit aims to reduce near-drowning injuries, drownings and diving injuries, as well as spread educational awareness.
- National Drowning Prevention Alliance: This organization's purpose is to teach as many people about drowning prevention as possible.
- National Swimming Pool Foundation: The NSPF offers books, courses, programs and conferences all designed to offer the best in swimming education that eliminates injuries and accidents.
- Pool Safely: This is a national government campaign by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to reduce swimming injuries and childhood deaths.
- WaterproofFL: This site offers brochures, posters and short videos that boil the information down to exactly what you need.
- World Health Organization: The WHO has provided its latest data regarding drowning, as well as its own set of links.
We hope these resources allow you to own a pool or swim without worry. In the meantime, if you need to speak with an attorney, try the Enjuris Florida law firm directory.