In the sun belt there are many swimming pools, especially in California, and consequently too many drownings, particularly for those under the age of 5. It is estimated that there are from 300 to 500 deaths from drowning for those under the age of 5 per year. Reportedly, close to 2000 children under the age of 5 visit the emergency room each year for “submersion” injuries each year. Drownings can occur at a private home, or at a public pool, and of course in an ocean, river, pond, etc. We will be discussing those drownings that occur at a private pool, and/or a public pool.
California Swimming Pool Safety Act
California has enacted a “Swimming Pool Safety Act, found at Health and Safety Code § 115920-115927. In substance this requires that any body of water that is more then 18 inches in depth comply with the statute. The statutes require that any time that a building permit is issued for the construction of a pool, the pool shall be equipped with one of a number of certain safety features that are designed to prevent drownings.
Some of those safety features are as follows: 1) an enclosure, 2) mesh fencing, 3) pool cover, 4) exit alarms on the house doors, 5) pool alarms, 5) and other devices.
For specific descriptions of those requirements one should review the code section, and consult with an expert in the field. These requirements do not apply to public swimming pools, nor to hot tubs, and some other pool situations. There are a set of specific rules that apply to hot tubs, also contained within the statute. In addition, your individual county may have additional requirements that need to be reviewed, such as Orange County.
Public Pool Safety
For public pools, there is often a lifeguard on duty. These guards can be hired directly, or provided by a red cross unit, or other private provider. When a life guard is on duty there are specific rules that must be complied with in order to insure the safety of the swimmer. The failure to perform all of these rules may be the negligence that caused the death or the injury.
Contact an Attorney immediately when a Person has Drowned
When a person has drowned, or suffered an injury due to a near drowning, it is important that an attorney be contacted immediately. Evidence needs to be preserved, and witnesses need to be identified. Photos should be taken of all surroundings, including the pool, the pool water, and the pool equipment. No conversations should be conducted with the insurance company, who will likely want to discuss the case with you. It is best that all evidence gathering be performed by a professional such as a licensed investigator. When a death or injury occurs the attorney is looking for those parties/persons who are responsible. They can include the owners of the pool, and/or the possessors of the property such as renter of the property. In addition, the manufacturer of any of the pool equipment, and/or supplies may have some liability. There may be design defects, or manufacturing defects. The lifeguard and others involved may have been negligent. The pool owners homeowners insurance may not be adequate, or there may be exclusions, and thus it is the responsibility of the attorney to look for additional parties who do have responsibility.
In short it is necessary that a complete analysis be performed to determine who is responsible for the death or injury. It is also necessary that qualified experts be retained early in the process.
If the pool is owned or run by a city, county, or other government agency, they too have responsibilities. However, they have different statute requirements, and claims must be filed with the appropriate agency within 6 months of the event. This is another reason why an attorney must be contacted immediately. If a government agency does have some responsibility, and a claim is not timely filed, then the pursuit of the responsible party becomes very difficult, if not impossible.