Swimming Pool Safety and Ownership Liability

Just weeks ago, an 18-year-old girl broke her wrist, fractured her skull and suffered a spinal cord injury after jumping into a swimming pool that was currently empty for repairs. Although the incident occurred near Boston, the accident could have easily occurred in any city – including Atlanta.

While it is terrible that the girl was injured, there is more to the story than just an accident. The injured girl and her friend were “pool-hopping”, intentionally trespassing and breaking into backyards to swim in people’s swimming pools.

In this case, the girl injured herself in a swimming pool that was as safe as the homeowner could have possibly made it. The pool was behind a six-foot privacy fence and then gated again inside the yard. But the teen, who is also charged with trespassing, intentionally bypassed these locked gates and became injured.

Protecting Children with Swimming Pools

While trespassing teenagers are a real threat to vigilant pool owners, they are not the biggest safety concern with your swimming pool. The greatest danger is with younger children wandering about in the hot Atlanta sun looking for a way to keep cool. An unprotected swimming pool looks cool and inviting, and often this leads to injuries and even death.

Swimming pool accidents certainly don’t just happen when you’re not looking or not home. Many accidents occur with parents or homeowners present and even within arm’s reach of a child. Protecting children and other swimmers is a joint effort between parents and swimming pool owners.

Parents are responsible for monitoring children and teaching them water safety including teaching younger children how to swim. Swimming pool owners are responsible for keeping the pool area secure and as safe as possible not just for their own family, but for any potential visitors – welcome and unwelcome – who may drop by for a swim.

Making Swimming Pools Safe

While it’s been shown that a fence will not keep out a determined trespasser, a six-foot fence would certainly discourage all but the most determined visitor from reaching your swimming pool. In fact, it’s been determined that fencing a swimming pool is so critical, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently called homeowners to action. They are encouraging all homeowners to safely fence in swimming pools. The vast majority of the 390 children who drown every year do so in neighborhood swimming pools.

Having a well-built fence will protect young children from accidental harm or death, and the fence also protects you, the homeowner, from legal liabilities those accidents may create.

Of course, there are times when children are welcome inside a fence for swimming, and in these cases, adults who are supervising, should not just be looking over the children, but should also recognize signs of drowning and know the appropriate action to take.

The movies show us that drowning involves flailing arms and shouts for help. This is wrong. A drowning victim can’t shout for help and the automatic reflex will move his arms in front of him rather than around him.

A drowning victim will rise and sink in the water as if climbing a ladder, and will not usually make noise due to a lack of oxygen. His eyes will appear glassy or unfocused. They may be closed.

Learning to spot signs of drowning will monitoring children in swimming pools and building adequate fences to prevent accidents when swimming pools are unmonitored will create far fewer deadly or dangerous accidents for children and teens.

If a loved one is injured, however, be sure to contact Bruce Hagen to discuss your rights and options in a free and confidential consultation.