In my previous post on this subject, I discussed why backyard swimming pools are generally a very strong liability risk. This type of liability broadly falls under an area of law known as “premises liability”. Legally, property owners in Massachusetts have an obligation to provide a safe environment for visitors and guests. In the event of a pool accident, an experienced Massachusetts premises liability attorney should be consulted. Under no circumstances should anyone who has been injured in such an accident, speak to an insurance representative or any other person, until they have spoken first to an experienced Massachusetts premises liability attorney. Swimming pool injuries and deaths involve complex medical and legal issues. When young children are injured, these injuries frequently involve neurological and cognitive impairment that is not always immediately apparent. Hence, the legal response to such an injury requires considerable legal experience in this area of practice.
In terms of geographical incidence of swimming pool injuries, studies indicate that (logically,) children in northern and northeastern states are involved in a higher percentage of these accidents than occur in warmer states such as Florida and California, owing to greater inexperience around swimming pools in the winter states. Anyone who buys a home with a swimming pool, or puts one in their backyard and thinks there is nothing more they need to do but ‘clean out the bugs’, is making a serious legal mistake. Proper swimming pool safety requires that several measures be taken:
• The area around the pool should be secured from curious children or intruders (usually by a view-obstructing high fence)
• Supervision appropriate to the ages of the persons using the pool should be present (as was apparently not the case in the Connecticut case in my previous post)
• The water should be regularly maintained for cleanliness and proper chemical balances.
• If a diving board is present, measures need to be taken to keep users from endangering one another.
• Signs pointing out particular hazards or warnings should also be openly and clearly displayed.
The types of injuries suffered in swimming pool accidents usually group as follows:
• Fractures resulting from improper diving or falling on hard, wet surfaces around the pool
• Head and brain injuries or spinal cord damage resulting from collisions in the pool or unsafe diving conditions
• Infection or illness caused by unsafe levels of bacteria in the water
• Toxic reaction to excessive use of chemicals
• Brain damage resulting from lack of oxygen in near drowning accidents, particularly those involving children
• Death by drowning
Rule One for homeowners with a swimming pool: Make sure that your homeowners’ insurance policy provides coverage for liability claims arising from the use or maintenance of your pool. Generally, I would not advise anyone with a swimming pool at their home to carry anything less than a bare minimum of $1.5 million in coverage. Many homeowners’ policies require a separate umbrella to provide this type of coverage; check with your insurance agent to make sure that you are adequately insured. Aside from individual homeowners, potential defendants in a swimming pool accident case commonly include a condominium association, an apartment building owner, a day camp or summer camp operator, a school district or university, or a hotel/motel resort. In some cases, where negligent installation or repair of a pool played a role in the accident, the manufacturer or installer of the pool might be liable as well. Aware of the dangers associated with swimming pools, the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is conducting a national Pool Safety Campaign. Click on these links to learn more.
In the mean time, if you or someone you know has been injured in a swimming pool accident, contact our office for a free consultation. We are experienced with this type of litigation, and can provide you with the expert legal guidance you will need.
In sum, I’d say this to any owner or operator of a swimming pool, whether residential or commercial: Stay cool this summer. But when it comes to legal measures, be cool in protecting your legal interests. Or things could get very hot.