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Who Can Be Held Liable for a Swimming Pool Accident?

By: Allan M. Siegel

Swimming pools are a popular way to cool off during the summer months, and while they can be a fun way to beat the heat or get your exercise, pools are not without their risks. That’s especially the case when negligence is involved.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC personal injury lawyers see and hear of many cases involving swimming pool accidents in the local area during the summer months, and receive many calls involving injuries, drowning accidents, near-drowning, and death that take place in and around pools. Because these accidents are much different from cases involving car accidents – where the at-fault party may be obviously apparent (i.e. a drunk driver) – many individuals and families we speak with are unsure as to whether or not their accidents could have been prevented, whether or not they have a potential personal injury or wrongful death claim, and who ultimately can be held liable for their damages.

As we often tell readers of our blog and local residents who ask questions in passing, fault and liability in accident cases are always a matter that depends on the facts involved. While every case is unique, there are some general issues of law involved, and some common examples of how liability may work when it comes to a swimming pool accident. Below, we provide a few examples of parties that may be held liable for damages victims sustain in swimming pool accidents:

Property Owners

Owners of swimming pools may be held liable for injuries sustained by visitors and guests under premises liability laws. Generally, these laws focus on the legal duties property owners have when it comes to ensuring safe conditions on their premises and the safety of guests. However, that “duty of care” can vary depending on who owns the pool and who the injured party is. For example:

  • Privately owned pools – Owners of private pools may be held liable for injuries suffered by visitors and guests when they fail to address potential hazards that pose risks of drowning, near-drowning, and other swimming pool injuries (such as slips and falls). This may include a lack of supervision (even if the only reasonable step to supervise would be to have an adult watching children use a pool) and failures to prevent unauthorized or unsupervised access to a pool, especially when it comes to children.

Depending on the circumstances, victims injured in swimming pool accidents on private property may have the right to bring claims against a property owner and their homeowner’s insurance, or a private business that owned the pool (such as a gym or local youth center). In other cases, victims may need to determine if there is a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that would bear responsibility for conditions on and near pools, or whether accidents and injuries resulted from the negligent supervision of private entities like day care centers or summer camp programs.

While property owners owe a duty to keep visitors, guests, and individuals under their supervision (i.e. children of day care centers or campers) safe from preventable swimming pool accidents, they do not generally owe this duty to individuals who trespass on their property. However, there may be some exceptions to liability involving “trespassers” when injured victims are children who were attracted to an swimming pool and able to gain access due to a lack of gates or fencing.

Local Government (Public Pools)

Premises liability laws also apply to public pools. As such, local government agencies tasked with overseeing and maintaining public swimming pools and facilities may be held liable for victims’ injuries. Examples of public swimming pool accidents that may result in government liability include:

  • Failures to supervise or provide adequately trained supervision
  • Failures to maintain premises and address potential dangers (i.e. tripping hazards, unsafe equipment, etc.)
  • Insufficient lighting if swimming pool accidents occur at open facilities at night
  • Negligent security
  • Failures to maintain clean premises in accordance to health and safety regulations

Because there are unique laws that apply in personal injury cases involving government liability, it is strongly encouraged that victims bring potential claims to the attention of experienced lawyers as soon as possible. There may be a different statute of limitations (time limit) that applies to these cases.

Day Care / Summer Camp Programs

Many day care and summer camp programs that cater to children make swimming a part of their summer activities. Whether these programs use a private pool on their property or visit another facility, they are accountable for supervising children and ensuring their safety. As such, they can potentially be held liable for injuries that result from a lack of supervision or negligent supervision.

Product Manufacturers

Although many personal injury cases involving swimming pool accidents involve negligent supervision or dangerous conditions that went unaddressed on private or public property, some may involve injuries caused by defective and unsafe products. This may include:

  • Defective pool toys
  • Defective cleaning equipment
  • Defective pools or drains

Depending on the circumstances, victims injured when using products as intended may have product liability claims against a manufacturer that negligently designed, manufactured, or marketed a defective product.

CSCS: Fighting for Victims of Preventable Accidents

Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is a DC-based law firm that has been fighting for injured victims and families throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia for decades. If you or your loved one have recently been injured in a swimming pool accident and would like more information about your rights and whether you may have a potential personal injury case, our attorneys are available to speak with you during a free and confidential consultation. Contact us to learn more about your situation and our services.