Drowning & Swimming Pool Accidents
These type of unspeakable tragedies can impact you and your family forever. You’ll need an experienced legal partner to help guide you through this process.
These type of unspeakable tragedies can impact you and your family forever. You’ll need an experienced legal partner to help guide you through this process.
Experienced attorneys at seeking maximum compensation.
Count on us to conduct a thorough investigation.
Legal representation is critical – get it now.
Drowning and near-drowning are among the most painful tragedies a family can endure. In just a matter of seconds, water can turn from a play area into a danger zone. These accidents can shatter a life as well as an entire family’s future, finances and stability.
One of the countless benefits of living in Arizona are the many days of sunshine and clear skies. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Phoenix ranks fourth in the United States for annual days of sunshine, boasting 211 days of sunshine, which is eighty-five percent of the year. Yuma, Arizona ranks number one, with ninety percent of sunshine a year.
With eight-five percent of the year being bathed in sunshine, it is no surprise that many Phoenix residents own swimming pools. In many states, a swimming pool is a luxury, however, in Phoenix it is staple. In fact, Phoenix ranks number one in the United States in residential pool ownership. Although swimming pools are a great source of entertainment and exercise, it is important for both parents and children to be educated about water safety and pool requirements in order to avoid unnecessary tragedy.
However, swimming pool accidents aren’t the only threat for drowning or secondary drowning. Each year, there are eight water-related incidents for every 100,000 children in Maricopa County. It is imperative to understand that something as simple as a bathtub, bucket or toilet can pose a serious risk to drowning or secondary drowning.
While it’s common to think of drowning as a problem for children, it’s also a serious issue for someone who knows how to swim. Every year in Maricopa County, twice as many adults die from drowning than children. Across the Valley, from Phoenix to Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler and Peoria, residents of all ages fall victim to the danger of unsupervised water activities. A drowning or near drowning happens 160 times a year, on average, in the Valley.
The Lamber Goodnow Phoenix Injury Law team is dedicated to providing drowning and near-drowning victims and their families with the support, counsel and representation they need. Our attorneys have a proven track record in seeking and securing the maximum compensation to ease the burden of healthcare costs, life care, rehabilitation and more.
There are many different factors that contribute to water related injuries and drownings. Among the most common issues in water accidents and drownings is negligence, and negligence resulting in wrongful death. However, many other factors may contribute to water related injuries or drowning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other factors that contribute to water injuries or drowning include:
Overcrowded Facilities: When a community pool is overcrowded, the risk becomes much larger for children to get injured when others jump into the pool and land on them. Additionally, when an area is overcrowded, people become more distracted, allowing children to wander, swim in areas that are above their abilities, or run over areas that may be slick with water, which may cause them to fall.
Poorly Trained Staff: Research suggests that being a lifeguard is a very difficult task. Sitting for long hours, often in hot weather, and watching for a very rare event to occur is difficult for the cognitive and perceptual parts of the human body. Additionally, lifeguards may often be distracted or poorly trained. However, the seconds that a lifeguard may be distracted could be the difference between life and death for your child who is struggling in the water.
Improperly Maintained Pools: If a pool has not been properly cleaned there is a chance that the water may become contaminated and make people sick. Additionally, water that is not clean may be murky, leading to accidents that result from people jumping or diving into shallow waters, or not seeing someone in the pool and jumping on them.
Defective Drains and other Equipment: A common hazard that poses a drowning risk is a defective pool drain design which creates a suction and entrapment hazard. This happens when the design of the drain allows it to be completely blocked by the swimmer’s body, which creates a vacuum effect, trapping the swimmer against the drain. This happens frequently with young children, who do not have the strength to break free from the vacuum caused by the drain. Other pool equipment, such as a broken tile, pump defects, a broken diving board, ladder and slide defects and pool filter issues may cause injuries.
Alcohol Use: Drinking in and around swimming pools while alluring, are often a dangerous mix. Alcohol can lead to poor choices and often affects a person’s decision making, coordination and balance. In fact, 70% of deaths for adolescents and adults involve alcohol according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lack of Swimming Lessons/Ability: While it seems obvious, control studies have proven that formal swim lessons can greatly reduce the risk of drowning. Many children – and adults – do not know how to swim, but a proactive approach to learning how should be essential training, especially in warm-weather markets.
Lack of Pool Fences: In states like Arizona, laws are the books requiring pool owners to have barriers, such as pool fencing around their home swimming pools. One study even showed that a four-sided isolation fence can reduce a kids’ risks for drowning some 83% as opposed to a three-sides property line fence. Many children seem naturally drawn to water, but a pool fence can help your children from accessing your pool without your knowledge.
Lack of Supervision: Watch your kids around water, and don’t be “lulled to sleep,” even in situations where a lifeguard may be on duty. For small children, even a toilet or a bucket of water can become hazardous. The tragedy of drowning can happen in a flash – and sometimes quietly – but the consequences can affect families forever.
Failure to Wear Life Jackets: If you and your family are involved in water sports like boating, a life jacket can save your life. In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard, 83% of the drowning death victims were NOT wearing life jackets (that report looked at 4,604 boating incidents where 3,153 people were reported injured – and 672 perished).
According to the World Health Organization, certain groups of individuals are more at risk, including:
Water related accidents may result in a wide range of injuries in addition to drowning deaths. Some of the most common injuries include:
Brain Damage: Brain damage can result from a blow to the head of from the lack of oxygen to the brain. If someone falls from the diving board or dives into water that is too shallow, they may hit their head and brain damage may be one possible consequence. Additionally, being under water for too long without breathing disrupts the flow of oxygen to a person’s brain and can result in brain damage. Brain damage may affect a number of daily skills and functions, including a person’s ability to speak, think or even move.
Head Injuries: Brain damage is not the only head injury that may occur in water related accidents. Other head injuries, may result from diving into shallow water, falling into a pool or an exploding pool filter, including: skull fractures and disfiguring facial lacerations.
Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries: A person that has falls into a body of water, dives into a shallow pool or falls due to a boating incident may break the vertebrae in their neck or back. Broken vertebrae can be painful and require surgery, or might result in nerve and spinal cord damage and paralysis. A broken neck or back might mean permanent disability and the need for lifelong care.
Soft Tissue Injuries and Broken Bones: Muscle strains, torn ligaments and broken arms or legs may result from swimming or diving accidents. Muscle spasms or strains may occur when ladders or diving boards fail or a person does not judge the distance in which to swim and becomes tired.
The Lamber Goodnow Phoenix Injury team appraises the details of each water related injury or drowning case to make sure that each family is receiving the damages that they fully deserve. In Arizona, victims of water related injures may recover present and future medical expenses, present and future lost wages, loss of companionship, diminished quality of life and pain and suffering.
If the victim dies in a drowning accident, certain members of the decedent’s family (A.R.S. Section 12-612(A)) may file a wrongful death claim and recover damages including the loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection and guidance, pain, grief, sorrow and stress suffered in the present and future, loss of income in the present and future, reasonable medical expenses and reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Additionally, in some cases, punitive damages may be awarded. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the party responsible and to discourage similar behavior in the future. Punitive damages may be awarded if the negligent act is considered especially reckless or egregious.
Most people have only viewed a person drowning on television and believe that it would be easy to spot. However, drowning does not look like it is portrayed on television. It may literally only take seconds for a drowning to occur and may even happen right before your eyes. It is extremely important to know the signs of drowning.
The major signs of drowning include:
Most water accidents in which there are injuries or drowning hinge on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence is a legal theory which refers to when a person fails to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would under the same circumstances.
Negligence is broken down into four elements:
People found at-fault for negligent or reckless behavior in Phoenix may also be found liable under the legal theory negligence per se. In tort law the rule of negligence per se states that if a defendant’s actions violated a safety statute, for example an Arizona statute created for pool safety, then the court will consider the actions negligent without asking whether a reasonable person would have done the same thing.
Examples of Arizona Statutes involving pool safety include:
Additionally, in Arizona negligence laws follow the doctrine of comparative negligence. Under Arizona Revised Statute Section 12-2505, an injured party is allowed to recover even if they are found to be up to 99 percent at fault. The victim’s damages will be reduced by the amount in which they are found to be at fault. However, if a plaintiff intentionally caused or contributed to an injury then they are barred from recovery.
However, if a person drowns because of the negligence of another, the victims’ family may sue, alleging wrongful death. According to A.R.S. Section 12-611, a wrongful death suit may be brought to court if the deceased person could have filed a personal injury case based on the negligent or wrongful conduct that caused their death. This may be because someone else physically caused the drowning, or because whoever responsible for the pool or waterway was negligent or reckless in the operation of the pool and their behavior caused the drowning.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family member starting the lawsuit has the burden of establishing that the defendant acted negligently and that their negligence was the proximate cause of the death of their loved one. Proximate cause means an event that is sufficiently related to an injury to make the courts deem that the event is the cause of that injury.
The Arizona State Legislature has recognized the importance of pool safety and passed A.R.S. § 36-1681 to prevent children from gaining unsupervised access to residential swimming pools.
The statute includes requirements such as: pool enclosure height (must be at least five feet high), door and gate measurements, when a wall or barrier is necessary and enclosure distance from the water’s edge
In part, A.R.S. § 36-1681 states:
“A. A swimming pool, or other contained body of water that contains water eighteen inches or more in depth at any point and that is wider than eight feet at any point and is intended for swimming, shall be protected by an enclosure surrounding the pool area, as provided in this section.
(a) Be self-closing and self-latching with the latch located at least fifty-four inches above the underlying ground or on the pool side of the gate with a release mechanism at least five inches below the top of the gate and no opening greater than one-half inch within twenty-four inches of the release mechanism or be secured by a padlock or similar device which requires a key, electric opener or integral combination which can have the latch at any height.
(b) Open outward from the pool.
Additionally, public swimming pools in Arizona must be in compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act. The Act includes safety requirements such as the requirements for pool and spa gates, alarms, covers, building requirements, drainage systems and covers, vacuum systems, back-up safety requirements and more. The Act was signed by President Bush on December 2007, to prevent public swimming pool and spa accidents.
Property owners are obligated to provide a safe environment to their tenants – and that obligation extends to swimming pools. Families should know that landlords and property owners could be held liable in the event of a drowning or near drowning.
Of course, there are countless ways that landlords can inexpensively protect their residents and avoid a drowning tragedy. Self-closing gates, routine maintenance to ensure gates function well, proper locks and barriers for exterior doors and gates, and other basic methods could prevent an injury or even a death.
While landlords could claim they are not responsible for providing or maintaining pool safety before or after leasing a property, the law often says otherwise. Landlords have a duty to provide a safe living environment for children who live in their properties under Arizona premises liability laws.
In the past, a landlord could rent a property to someone “as is.” This meant that any unreasonably dangerous portions of the home had to be accepted by the tenant and the landlord would not be liable for any injuries due to unreasonably dangerous conditions. However, Arizona, like most jurisdictions, has abandoned the concept that a landlord turns the leasehold over to the tenant “as is.” Now, a landlord owes certain duties to a tenant “to take those precautions for the safety of the tenant as would be taken by a reasonably prudent man under similar circumstances.” Arizona defines a “tenant” to include children to the extent they are residing in the home with their parents. Therefore, in the case of a swimming pool, if a landlord does not make reasonable repairs and take reasonable safety precautions to fence the pool they may be held liable in the case of an injury or drowning of a child (or adult).
Contact our law firm today at 602-ARIZONA (274-9662) or 1-800-ATEAM-LAW (283-2652) toll free. Speak with a lawyer right away — before speaking with any auto insurance provider if possible. Other steps you can take now!
The Lamber Goodnow Team is well aware of many of the arguments that landlords will try to make after a drowning – and those arguments will fail. Our team has successfully handled drowning and near drowning cases.
According to the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona, there is a three-pronged approach to drowning prevention which includes adult supervision, barriers to water access and life vests and coast guard approved CPR classes for adults.
Additional ways to prevent drowning include:
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While medical care is the most immediate need after a drowning or even a near drowning, legal advice is also critical. Evidence can be lost quickly in situations like drownings, and families need the advice and support only a drowning expert can provide. Too often, families are forced to choose between caring for their loved one and handling the legal and insurance ramifications of a drowning.
The Lamber Goodnow Injury Law team will use our comprehensive services to address all issues that could be related to a drowning – from liability to healthcare costs, damages and lifetime care. Our team partners with experts on swimming pool accidents and brain injuries, as well as renowned scholars and doctors across the country to provide the most comprehensive representation available.
As with all of our cases, our clients pay nothing out of pocket and we only get paid if we recover money for our clients first.
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It is never too late to obtain our services. Contact us online or call our firm at 602-ARIZONA (274-9662) or 1-800-ATEAM-LAW (283-2652) toll free.
 Brenner RA, Taneja GS, Haynie DL, Trumble AC, Qian C, Klinger RM, Klevanoff MA. Association between swimming lessons and drowning in childhood: A case-control study. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 2009;163(3):203-10.
 Thompson DC, Rivara FP. Pool fencing for preventing drowning in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000; 2.
 U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security (US). Recreational Boating Statistics – 2010 [online]. [cited 2012 May 3]. Available from: http://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/workflow_staging/Page/2010_Recreational_Boating_Statistics.pdf.
 Schultz v. Eslick, 788 F.2d 558, 559 (9th Cir. 1986).
 McLeod, 163 Ariz. at 9, 785 P.2d at 578 quoting Shannon v. Butler Homes, Inc., 102 Ariz. 312, 317, 428 P.2d 990, 995 (1967);