Swimming pool accidents are a preventable tragedy. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children 14 and under. Near-drowning can cause irreversible brain damage. Most swimming pool accidents are the result of negligence. Insufficient barriers to pools and lack of lifeguards or lifeguard negligence are common factors in accidental drowning and near-drownings. More than three-quarters of swimming pool accident victims are missing for less than five minutes before they are found submerged or dead.
Some facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- In 2002, there were 3,447 unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging nine people per day. This figure does not include drownings in boating-related incidents (CDC 2004).
- In 2002, 838 children ages 0 to 14 years died from drowning (CDC 2004). Although drowning rates have slowly declined (Branche 1999), drowning remains the second-leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years (CDC 2004).
- For every child 14 years and younger who drowns, three receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. More than 40% of these children require hospitalization (CDC 2004). Nonfatal incidents can cause brain damage that result in long-term disabilities ranging from memory problems and learning disabilities to the permanent loss of basic functioning (i.e., permanent vegetative state).
It takes only a few minutes to die from drowning. Most drowning deaths are silent, with no splashing or screaming. Typically consciousness is lost after two minutes of submersion. Some swimming pool accidents occur because the victim has already lost consciousness, often by hitting his or her head in the pool or in a fall outside of the pool.
Nearly all near-drowning victims who require CPR will sustain severe brain injuries. Lack of oxygen to the brain causes damage very quickly, and the injuries sustained by the brain are often permanent, resulting in life-long disabilities and creating physical, emotional and financial hardships for victims and their families.
Recreational Water Illness (RWI)
While minor compared to death and debilitating brain injuries, recreational water illnesses are often secondary problem caused by swimming pool accidents. A poorly maintained pool can become contaminated and illnesses can result from ingesting pool water during a near-drowning accident, or from contact with the water when someone falls into a pool. Common RWI’s include:
- Skin rash
- Ear infection
- Eye infection
- Respiratory infection
Nearly all swimming pool accidents can be prevented by proper barriers and supervision. It is estimated the 50-90% of residential swimming pool accidents could have been prevented by proper fencing. Swimming pools should be blocked off by fencing on all four sides that is at least five feet high and has self-closing or self-latching gates. Non-residential pools should have the added protection of a lifeguard. The mere presence of a lifeguard does not, in itself, mean that an accident will not occur. Too many preventable swimming pool accidents have been the result of lifeguards who were negligent and were not paying attention, or took a break without notifying anyone.
Swimming pool accidents take just minutes to cause death or life-long disabilities. Along with the joy and/or profit that comes with swimming pool ownership come certain inherent responsibilities to provide for safety. When a pool owner’s negligence results in injury or death, the pool owner can be held responsible. Each situation is unique, and must be investigated quickly. Swimming pool accident victims need help from an attorney who specializes in these types of cases.