Indiana Swimming Pool Accidents and Injuries

Indiana swimming pool laws

Who’s responsible when a swimmer is injured or drowns in the Hoosier State?

Public and private swimming pool owners may be liable when a swimmer is injured. Learn about the health risks to swimmers and the legal risks to owners.
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More than 27 million people swim regularly in pools in the United States.

Swimming, which is the 4th most popular sports activity in the country, has proven health benefits that include a decreased risk of chronic illness and depression. Unfortunately, swimming is not without its risks. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 10 people drown every day in the U.S.

Who can be held liable when someone is injured in a swimming pool in Indiana?

The answer depends on several factors, including whether the pool is publicly or privately owned. 

Let’s dive in and take a closer look.

How common are swimming pool accidents?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 3,000 people die from drowning every year in the U.S. What’s more, roughly 6,700 people are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal pool-related injuries.

Children under the age of 15 are particularly at risk for both fatal and non-fatal swimming pool injuries.

Swimming pool drowning deaths in the U.S.
Year Younger than 5 years of age 5-14 years of age
2014 255 96
2015 262 88
2016 289 100
Source: United States Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

Swimming pool injuries treated in emergency departments in the U.S.
Year Younger than 5 years of age 5-14 years of age
2016 4,200 1,800
2017 5,300 2,000
2018 4,900 1,500
Source: United States Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

Facing factsThe CDC found that Black children and teens (ages 5-19) were 10 times more likely than Whites to drown in swimming pools. A USA Swimming study found that the absence of swimming involvement and encouragement from Black parents, which may be due to a history of racial segregation, contributes to the disparity.

What are the most common causes of swimming pool accidents?

Most drownings occur as a result of inadequate supervision and a lack of swimming ability.

Real Life Example: In Hamilton County, 5-year-old Adam Leeson was pulled from a friend’s swimming pool limp and lifeless. A friend performed CPR and, remarkably, Adam fully recovered after spending 3 days in the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. 

Adam’s mother, who let Adam enter the pool while she stepped away to put on her daughter’s bathing suit, feels responsible for the near-drowning and she wants other mothers to know her story.
“I am responsible because I let him get in without any sort of safety device on, and he was in before I personally was ready to watch him,” she said in a Facebook post. “I feel this happened to save others. In my heart of hearts, I know other parents need to read this.”

Other common factors that lead to swimming pool accidents include:

  • Lack of barriers
  • Failure to wear life jackets
  • Alcohol use
  • Seizure disorders
  • Unmarked depths
  • Slippery pool decks
  • Defective or poorly maintained equipment
Facing factsResidential locations, such as a child’s home, a family or friend’s house, or a neighbor’s residence, made up approximately 70% of reported fatal drowning incidents.

When is a private pool owner liable for a swimming accident?

In Indiana, property owners must take certain measures to ensure that their swimming pool is safe for visitors. The measures they must take depend on the status of the visitor:

Classification Definition Duty owed
Invitee An individual who is invited or permitted to enter the premises for the benefit of the owner (for example, a customer at a waterpark) An owner owes an invitee the highest degree of care, which includes the duty to locate and fix (or provide a warning about) any dangerous conditions.
Licensee An individual who is on the premises with permission from the owner for their own convenience, curiosity, or entertainment (for example, a child visiting a neighbor’s pool) An owner has a duty to:

  • Refrain from willfully injuring a licensee
  • Refrain from increasing the possibility of harm to a licensee
  • Warn a licensee of hidden dangers known to the owner
Trespasser An individual who is on the premises without permission from the owner An owner has a duty to:

  • Refrain from willfully injuring a trespasser
  • Refrain from increasing the possibility of harm to a trespasser

 

Once the duty owed is determined, the injured swimmer or their legal representative can establish that the property owner is negligent by proving that:

  1. The property owner breached the duty owed,
  2. The breach caused the harm, and
  3. The injured person was in fact harmed.

Indiana swimming pools laws and requirements

Importantly, Indiana pool owners are required to adhere to certain regulations intended to help keep swimmers safe.

The pool regulations can be found in Article 20 of the Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission Swimming Pool Construction Code and Rule 410 of the Indiana Administrative Code. Additionally, most counties, such as Allen County, have local ordinances.

The regulations cover a host of topics, including:

  • Fencing and automatic pool cover requirements
  • Required pool safety equipment
  • Structural design requirements
  • Minimum dimensions for diving portions of a pool
  • Deck requirements
  • Electrical codes
  • Sewage disposal
In Indiana, state code requires homeowners with a pool to have a 5-foot fence or an automatic pool cover. Tweet this

If a pool owner fails to adhere to the rules and a swimmer is injured as a result, the pool owner may be held liable.

When is a public pool owner liable for a swimming accident?

Just like owners of private pools, public pool owners (generally a town, city, or state) can be held liable for negligence if a swimmer is injured because the owner failed to meet the appropriate standard of care.

Similarly, public pool owners must adhere to state regulations found in Article 20 of the Fire Prevention & Building Safety Commission Swimming Pool Construction Code and Rule 410 of the Indiana Administrative Code.

For example, 6-2.1-35 of the Indiana Code requires all public pools to have a lifeguard. If a public pool owner fails to adhere to a regulation and a swimmer is injured as a result, the pool owner may be held liable—even if that owner is a local municipality or government.

What damages can a person injured in a pool accident recover?

Even if a swimmer survives a drowning, the swimmer can suffer significant injuries, including:

  • Severe brain damage
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Hypothermia

Fortunately, there are 3 types of damages an injured swimmer can recover in Indiana:

  1. Economic damages are the monetary damages that stem from the injury. These damages include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and property damage.
  2. Noneconomic damages are the losses that don’t have a monetary value but nevertheless stem from an injury, including pain and suffering.
  3. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and are available in cases where the defendant acted willfully or with gross negligence.
Enjuris tip: If your loved one was killed in a swimming pool accident, you may be able to recover damages by filing a wrongful death claim.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit based on a pool injury?

Indiana has a statute of limitations that sets the amount of time you have to file certain types of lawsuits. For most lawsuits based on swimming pool injuries, you’ll have 2 years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.

However, there’s an important exception to the general 2-year period. Under Indiana’s Tort Claims Act, any person who wishes to sue the government (as would generally be the case if you were injured in a public pool), must provide a tort claim notice to the appropriate government agency within 180 days.

Injured in a swimming pool accident in the Hoosier State?

Don’t hesitate to use our free online directory to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Most initial consultations are free and you can cover quite a bit of ground if you’re prepared for your first meeting.

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Enjuris now partners with Pool Safely to help prevent child drownings
Pool Safely is a national public education campaign from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Learn more about how Enjuris and Pool Safely help make water play and summer fun safer for families!

 

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