As the days heat up and parents long for a break, residential swimming pools are likely to get their fair share of use. While having your child and their friends play in the backyard while you watch or taking your family down to the community pool where there are lifeguards on duty may be a safe way to beat the heat, swimming pools can also pose a threat. Especially to children who are too young to fully understand the dangers of jumping into the water while unattended, an unguarded pool provides both a temptation and hazard. Parents of young children should make sure they understand how the law protects their family in case of a swimming pool accident.
Though such tragedies are preventable, around 400 children drown in backyard pools each year. Swimming pool accidents are the top cause of accidental deaths in the home for children under 5. Additionally, more than 4,000 children in this age group are rushed to the emergency room after swimming pool accidents annually. As parents, we do everything we can to keep our young ones safe—but toddlers especially have a gift for slipping out of reach the moment you look away. When homeowners or residential associations fail to provide safeguards, a child may make it into a pool before their parent has time to catch up.
Unsecured Pools Are a Premises Liability Issue
A property owner or manager has a duty to keep land and structures reasonably safe for visitors or invitees whether it’s used for commercial or personal purposes. This responsibility is enforced through premises liability law, which allows people to file for compensation if they sustain damages while on someone else’s property. Landowners are required to make reasonable efforts to prevent, repair, or warn about dangerous situations so visitors are not injured.
In most cases, adults can be expected to notice obvious hazards and/or understand the inherent danger in some situations, swimming pools included. However, the law recognizes that children cannot be expected to have the same awareness of these risks. Under “attractive nuisance doctrine,” property owners can be held liable for injuries to children under certain circumstances. This is the case even if those children are trespassing when they are injured.
When a property is a home to one or more “attractive nuisances,” or items that may entice children onto the land while also providing a hazard, an owner should do their part to prevent youngsters from gaining access. Attractive nuisances include:
- Swimming pools, fountains, or other water features
- Playground equipment
- Construction equipment and materials
- Old cars or appliances
Landowners Should Do Their Part to Prevent Swimming Pool Accidents
A key part of attractive nuisance doctrine is the idea that a landowner should take reasonable efforts to keep children away from potential hazards on their property. When it comes to swimming pools, this may include measures like:
- A fence that is at least 4 feet high
- Alarms on doors/gates to the pool area
- Self-closing/locking doors/gates
- Gates that open outward rather than inward
- Use of a pool cover
- Removable steps/ladders for aboveground pools
Landowners should keep in mind that some simple barriers may not provide adequate protection against children trespassing into a pool area. Toddlers and youngsters are able to climb over, crawl under, or slip through an extraordinary number of would-be safety barriers. Even if a landowner has undertaken the “reasonable effort” of putting a fence up, it does little good if children can bypass it easily.
Learn If You Have a Case After a Swimming Pool Accident
Even children who are comfortable in water are in danger of drowning if they find themselves in an unfamiliar situation and panic. Anyone who has been trained as a lifeguard knows water rescues can be difficult. Even if you are able to bring your child to safety relatively quickly, they may need treatment for injuries including fluid in the lungs and/or hypoxia. Aside from the stress you face seeing your child in immediate danger, you may end up with high hospital bills to pay after they have recovered.
If your child got into a pool on someone else’s property, it’s important to determine whether you can file a claim under attractive nuisance doctrine. Our attorneys are here to evaluate your case and help you understand your legal options. Moving forward after your child is seriously injured can be difficult. If you are eligible for any financial support, we want to help you put together a claim.