Texas leads the nation for pool drowning deaths.
Swimming pool injuries and fatality statistics
Drowning is the second-highest cause of accidental death nationally for children aged 1-4, and it stays among the top 5 depending on where you are in the world. For adults, it's the fifth leading cause of accidental death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that three children lose their lives every day, and if they manage to survive, oxygen starvation can result in life-altering injuries.
Only looking away for a few minutes can result in the worst, because it takes fewer than five minutes for someone to drown.
How 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.
The plaintiff (or the injured person) must illustrate that the defendant owed a duty of care;
The plaintiff must then prove that the defendant breached the 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 for any injuries, even if they weren't home at the time, because the pools are ultimately their responsibility.
Texas property owners are required to maintain their premises in reasonably safe conditions and to warn visitors of any known dangers. They can even be held responsible for trespassers. If they fail to do that and their actions result in injuries, they can be held liable for the harm.
Types of injuries
Near-drowning accidents can result in terrible tragedies. Submersion injuries cause oxygen starvation to the brain. They can happen 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, though faulty pool drains can also result in injuries to the bowels or other systems, which can result in lifelong injuries.
Diving into shallow water also can result in serious harm to the spinal cord or brain. 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 be impaired, ranging from the ability to breathe, to partial or complete paralysis.
Drowning-related disabilities are life-changing in multiple ways. Medical costs for patients of this magnitude can hit $180,000 per year. If there is permanent brain damage, meaning decades' worth of costs, it can reach $4.5 million over that person's lifespan.
Some of these results can be prosecuted under the doctrine of “attractive nuisance.”
Under the Texas Premises Liability Statute, children aren't as competent or experienced in the world as adults are. They look at a pool and think, “Oooooh, that looks fun.” Extra measures must be taken to deter children from finding their way in and hurting themselves in the process.
Statute of limitations
If an individual has been injured while swimming on another person's property, he or she would have two years from the date of the accident to bring a premises liability case. They would also have that same amount of time to bring a wrongful death case. Speaking with an attorney as soon as possible will help to preserve your rights.
If you've been injured while swimming on someone's property, you have 2 years to bring a premises liability case. Tweet this
What happens in Texas
There are four categories through which someone can recover damages after a swimming accident in Texas.
Private pools: These are “premises liability” claims against the homeowner, but the bar is set very high and the homeowner will generally have an insurance policy that protects against this horrible eventuality. The victim has to show that the homeowner was supposed to protect his pool in a better manner – not just that someone had an accident, but that the homeowner was seriously neglectful. Because of Texas' homestead exemptions, victims must pursue the insurance policies instead, which can be very hit or miss.
Commercial pools: Texas is, by reputation, a “low regulation” state. However, commercial pools still have many rules and are held to a high standard. Customers, guests and renters are considered “invitees” and expect a safe environment in which to swim. This means that the owners of the pool have large commercial insurance policies. The only catch here is comparative fault: If the invitees were in any way responsible for their injuries, their damages will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Product liability: Drains and malfunctioning pool equipment can be highly dangerous. If a child is caught in a drain and drowns, the manufacturer can be held liable.
Waterparks: Waterparks have a heightened duty to protect people on their premises, since they are making money like commercial pools. However, waterparks make money by drawing as many people as possible to their premises, so they will fight you tooth and nail to say they weren't liable. They don't want their potential customers thinking they'll drown.
How to swim safely
Here are some tips for safer swimming:
Make sure younger swimmers wear flotation devices, even if they whine about it
Don't read a book; keep a watchful eye on swimmers
Put your cell phone away while on duty
Don't swim by yourself; bring a friend with you
Don't swim after drinking, smoking or using prescription medication
Use pool noodles, tubes and other flotation devices. Encourage this by buying cool ones, like this.
Learn CPR and lifesaving swimming techniques
Best swimming and personal injury resources in Texas
Here are some of the best organizations that are dedicated to teaching better swimming techniques and offering educational resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Swimming is a great way to get in shape, though it doesn't come without its risks. This site provides information for everyone from laypeople to medical professionals.
Help and Hope: This website keeps track of tragic statistics, such as how many children have passed away by drowning in the state and where those accidents occurred. It also offers information for parents and caregivers as to how they can protect their children around water. It's run by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Injury-Free Austin: The materials on this site are created by injury prevention experts and are intended to improve population-level health. Experts are engaged to ensure that the latest consensus-level health information is offered to the public.
National Swimming Pool Foundation: The NSPF's drowning prevention campaign aims to provide educational information so that fewer people die from unintentional accidents.
Texas Swim Academy: Their approach is RESPECT: Recognize the signs of non-swimmers or distressed swimmers; Educate yourself on what factors lead to drowning; Supervise; Physical barriers should be used, along with fencing, safety covers, alarms and life jackets; Expect realistic limits from the aquatic environment and know your body's limits; Communicate, warn and inform; Train, learn to swim and how to respond in an emergency.
YMCA Houston: This program is designed to begin at 6 months old, instilling the idea that swimming is a survival skill and not just for fun. Additionally, if they do not pass the pool test, they will automatically be enrolled in classes to make them more capable and confident in the water.
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 Texas law firm partner!