Swimming pools are a hotspot for summer fun, but are they also a place of risk. An estimated 3,500 people died in drowning accidents each year between 2005 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even non-fatal accidents and near-drowning can cause serious, long-term injuries, such as brain damage and spinal cord damage. When a tragic accident strikes, victims or family members should speak to a Long Island swimming pool accident and drowning lawyer about their legal options for recovering compensation for damages.
For a free legal consult, call Goldstein and Bashner at 516-222-4000.
What are some common causes of swimming pool accidents?
First, swimming pools are inherently dangerous simply because of the risk of drowning. Children and weak swimmers are of course at risk, but even skilled swimmers can cramp up or hit their head and drown. In addition, there are numerous hazards around a pool all the time, from slippery decks to defective pool toys and floatation devices.
Our firm has handled numerous types of swimming pool accident cases. Some possible accidents for which you may be eligible to file a claim include:
- Inadequate supervision
- Slips and falls (slippery wet area, suntan oil on the ground, running, etc.)
- Defective handrails
- Young children who wander and fall in a neighbor’s pool
- Pool drains (can catch people and trap them underwater)
- Lack of nearby lifesaving equipment
- Collapsed inflatable pools that trap and suffocate
- Diving in shallow water without a warning
In addition to acute trauma, people can also contract illness from contaminated water or suffer from complications from exposure to pool chemicals.
Can I hold someone liable for my or my child’s swimming pool accident?
In many cases, yes, you can hold the pool owner financially liable for your damages resulting from a swimming pool accident. This includes both public pool owners, owners of hotel and apartment pools, and private pool owners.
In New York, property owners have a duty of care to invitees and licensees to ensure their pools are reasonably safe. They have a legal duty to maintain their premises and warn visitors of any hazards. If you can prove that the owner was negligent of her duties, you can pursue compensation for your damages or your child’s damages by filing a premises liability claim or lawsuit.
If the injury occurred because of defective equipment, you can seek recovery from the manufacturer.
Generally, pool owners do not owe trespassers a duty of care. So if a teenager breaks into a private pool and injures himself, the family of the teenager may struggle to hold the owner liable. The state makes an exception for small children, though. Because of what the legal world calls the attractive nuisance doctrine, pool owners must make sure their pool is inaccessible by any young children that could wander in. They can do this by using measures such as pool fencing and childproof gate latches.
Can I still recover damages if I was partly to blame for my injuries?
While there are scenarios in which victims might be partly responsible for an accident, they may still be able to recover some of their losses. New York adheres to the pure comparative negligence rule. This rule stipulates that injury victims can still recover damages, even if they were partly at fault for the accident. The caveat is that your degree of fault will reduce your settlement award.
So, let us say that you were running around the edge of a public pool, tripped over an unsecured electrical cord, and sustained fractures and a head injury. The insurer or courts might assign both you and the owner 50 percent fault for the incident. In this case, you will be entitled to recover only 50 percent of your damages.
Comparative negligence is more complicated in cases involving minors. Your lawyer can advise you accordingly.
What types of damages can I recover in a swimming pool accident case?
If your child or spouse drowned in a pool, you may be able to recover numerous types of pecuniary damages in a wrongful death claim. Examples include loss of earnings, loss of benefits, funeral expenses, medical expenses the victim had prior to death, loss of parental guidance and advice, loss of consortium, and the deceased’s pain and suffering.
If the injuries were not fatal, then victims (or someone on their behalf) can pursue a claim on all types of injury-related losses, including financial, physical, and emotional harms. Below are a few examples of compensable damages from swimming pool accidents or near-drownings:
- Emergency care and hospital bills
- Treatments and the costs of transportation to receive treatment
- Long-term care and rehabilitation
- Loss of wages, loss of working capacity, loss of promotion
- Emotional damages, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish
In cases where the victim was injured as a result of violence or willful misconduct, the courts may award punitive damages to the victim in addition to all the compensatory damages.
What if the accident occurred at a friend’s home and I do not want to sue?
We understand that this might be a sensitive situation, but you should know that whatever damages you pursue would likely not come from your friend’s pocket. Homeowners carry homeowner’s insurance, which covers most injuries that visitors sustain on the property. In many cases, if the accident occurred at a friend’s, relative’s, or neighbor’s house, you will simply file a claim with their insurance company, which will cut your final check.
The same is true of any pool owner — both public and private. The first recourse for recovery is to file an injury claim with the owner’s liability insurer. If the policy does not cover your damages or refutes your claim altogether, then your attorney can help you file a lawsuit in civil court.
What if I cannot afford an attorney for my swimming injury/drowning case?
It is advisable to retain counsel if pursuing a major claim. Unfortunately, many people forgo an attorney due to financial concerns.
That is something you do not have to worry about at Goldstein and Bashner. At our firm, we work on a contingency basis. This means we do not charge you for our services unless and until we recover a settlement from you. In other words, you have no out-of-pocket expenses when you work with us, so you have nothing to lose by using our services.
Contact our office in Long Island today at 516-222-4000 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a swimming pool accident and drowning lawyer.