Summertime is the time of the year that everyone pulls out their swimming trunks and tries to escape the heat by jumping into the local pool. Many people take this time to relax and enjoy the nice weather and also to let their children burn off some of the extra energy they have from not being in school. While swimming is a fun and healthy activity, it can also result in many accident injuries and even death. Among these injuries are drownings, which are an unfortunate but common event all across the country.
What Are the Risk Factors for Accidental Drownings?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and four. Over a two-year period, the CDC reported that there were on average 390 reported drowning deaths in the United States that occurred in swimming pools. Out of this average, approximately sixty-seven percent of these deaths occurred when the child was between the ages of one and three. Some of the risk factors for accident drownings include:
- Age – According to the Arkansas Infant and Child Death Review Program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the state ranks seventh in the United States for drowning-related deaths among children younger than 17, a figure that is 60 percent higher than the national average
- Gender – Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.
- Alcohol use – Alcohol influences balance coordination and judgment. It is involved in up to half of adolescent and adult deaths associated with water recreation
People often forget that swimming can be a dangerous activity, and parents sometimes forget that they need to be hyper-vigilant when their children are swimming even if there are lifeguards. However by learning some of the causes of drowning accidents, you can hopefully help prevent them.
What Are the Causes of Drowning Accidents?
Many people think that it takes several minutes for a person to drown, however, they would be surprised to find that it only takes a few seconds for a distressed swimmer to slip beneath the water. There are many factors and situations that can lead to a drowning accident. Some of these include:
One of the largest contributors to accidental drownings are the pool owner or facilities negligence. The Arkansas State Board of Health has issued rules and regulations pertaining to Swimming Pools and Other Related Facilities. These rules were promulgated under Authority of the Ark. Code Ann. § 20-7-109 and Ark. Code Ann. § 20-30-103 et. seq. and became effective on August 1, 2012. This section only applies to public swimming pools. Under these rules, public pools are required to have fences that are at least four feet tall, and public pools are required to employ A minimum of one lifeguard shall be provided for each 2000 square feet of water surface. One additional lifeguard shall be provided for each additional 2000 square feet of water surface, or fraction thereof equal to or greater than 1000 square feet.
Drowning accidents are a tragic event and are more common than one might think. Between the years of 2005 and 2009, the CDC statistics report that there were an estimated 3,355 annual drownings, which equates to roughly an average of 10 drowning deaths each day.
Who is Liable?
In order to prevail on a claim of negligence, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages. Branscumb v. Freeman, 360 Ark. 171, 200 S.W.3d 411 (2004). Duty is a concept that arises out of the recognition that the relationship between individuals may impose on one a legal obligation for the other. Yanmar Co. v. Slater, 2012 Ark. 36, 386 S.W.3d 439. The question of the duty owed by one person to another is always a question of law and never one for the jury.
In Arkansas, for purposes of premises liability, there are three basic categories of persons present on another’s property who may allege injury against the landowner: trespasser, licensee, and invitee. Arkansas courts adhere to common law distinctions between the duties owed to these three categories of persons.
- Trespassers – Trespassers are people who are on the property of another but without any authorization to be there. Generally, a landowner does not owe a trespasser any duty of care, however, The Arkansas State Board of Health requires that provisions must be made to exclude unauthorized entry to the public swimming facility. This means that a public pool owner may have a duty to install a barrier or fence to keep people out.
- Licensee -When determining whether a visitor qualifies as either an invitee or licensee, it is important to look to the purpose of the visit and the property owner’s invitation. A licensee is one who goes on the premises of another with the consent of the owner A landowner owes a licensee the duty to refrain from injuring him through willful or wanton conduct, except that where the landowner discovers that a licensee is in peril, he has a duty of ordinary care to avoid injury to the licensee. Bader, supra. That duty takes the form of warning a licensee of hidden dangers if the licensee does not know or have reason to know of the conditions or risks involved for one’s own purposes and not for the mutual benefit of oneself and the owner. Heigle v. Miller, 332 Ark. 315, 965 S.W.2d 116 (1998). Our supreme court has generally held that a primarily social guest is a licensee.
- Invitee – An invitee, in contrast, is one induced to come onto the property for the business benefit of the possessor. Bader v. Lawson, 320 Ark. 561, 898 S.W.2d 40 (1995). There are two types of invitees: public and business. A public invitee is invited to enter or remain on the property as a member of the public for a purpose for which the property is held open to the public, such as a hospital or library. Lively v. Libbey Mem’l Physical Med. Ctr., Inc., 311 Ark. 41, 841 S.W.2d 609 (1992). A business invitee is invited to enter or remain on the property for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with the business dealings of the possessor of the property. The duty owed to invitees is much broader and encompasses a property owner’s liability if he has superior knowledge of an unreasonable risk of harm of which the invitee, in the exercise of ordinary care, does not or should not know.
Pool owners, those who control a pool, and swimmers alike could all benefit from identifying, knowing, and addressing common risk factors involved in drowning incidents.
Contact a Bella Vista Accidental Drowning Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to negligence or recklessness at a public or private pool, personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak may be able to fight for you. For more than 20 years Ken Kieklak has fought on behalf of injured Arkansans. To schedule a free, confidential personal injury or wrongful death consultation, call (479) 316-0438 today or contact us online.