As the last few weeks of summer heat melt away, you may be tempted to take a final dip in the pool before the cooler autumn weather sets in. Although swimming in the pool is usually all fun and games, accidents do frequently happen. Specifically, in a 2015 report issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, almost 300 children age five or younger drown in pools and spas every year. It is important to understand the potential liability for pool owners in the event you or your child is injured or dies.
Common Injuries to be Aware of While at the Pool
The best way you can try to avoid getting injured at the pool is to know the potential risks. There are several common reasons why accidents may happen at the pool:
- Inadequate or Lack of Supervision: Inattentive or non-existent lifeguards can often lead to reckless behavior in the pool that leads to accidents.
- Improper Pool Drainage or Filtration: At times, pool drains or filtration systems that are designed to clean the water instead malfunction and have a powerful suction that drag people, particularly minor children, toward the bottom of the pool.
- Lack of Signage or Warning: Pool owners sometimes do not take sufficient steps to warn visitors about conditions not readily discoverable by the visitor.
- No Fences or Other Barriers: People, particularly children, may get injured due to a lack of barriers to the pool. This in turn lets children wander into the pool and potentially drown.
If You Are Injured at a Private Pool …
If you are a guest at someone’s private pool, you are considered a “licensee.” This means a pool owner owes you a duty to warn you of any safety hazards that are not apparent to visitors exercising reasonable care to look out for them. You can recover damages against a private pool owner if you can prove they breached the foregoing duty to you and that breach was the proximate cause of your injury. This may include making sure there is adequate signage and depth markers for pool conditions or erecting barriers around potentially dangerous areas around your pool. For example, imagine there is a broken light in your neighbor’s pool that he does not warn you about despite knowing it was broken for months. You are getting ready to push off the wall when you feel a searing pain in your foot. You look down and discover you have cut your foot on the light. You likely will be able to recover under a negligence theory against the pool owner.
If Your Child is Injured in a Pool …
One exception to the general rule set forth above is for children. Pool owners must make reasonable efforts to prevent children from entering the pool without the owner’s knowledge. This could include erecting barriers around their pool so that children do not accidentally fall into the pool. Accordingly, a pool owner could still be liable if a child is injured at their pool even if the owner is not there and the child is trespassing.
If You Are Injured at a Public Pool …
Owners of a public pool owe a higher duty of care than owners of a private pool. This is because while you are considered a “licensee” on a friend’s property with a private pool, you are considered an “invitee” if you are at a public pool. Specifically, a “licensee” is someone who is invited to someone’s property for social purposes such as relaxing in a pool. An “invitee” on the other hand is someone who is invited onto the property for the benefit of the landowner. A public pool owner owes a visitor two duties: (1) a duty to warn them of concealed dangers or risks the owners knows about but are not discoverable by the visitor if the visitor uses reasonable care and (2) a duty to maintain the pool in a reasonably safe condition by taking appropriate measures to mitigate and eliminate unreasonable risk. Similar to recovering for an injury at a private pool, someone who is injured at a public pool may recover against the pool owner if they can show the pool owner breached one of the above duties and this breach was a proximate cause of actual injuries.
Moreover, public pools in South Carolina are highly regulated. Specifically, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has promulgated an extensive set of regulations that set forth requirements for public pools in South Carolina. These regulations specifically detail requirements for construction of pools (including depth markers, chemical filtration, drainage, water treatment, etc.), design requirements for different types of public pools, operation and maintenance procedures, and closures of public pools. A public pool owner may be held liable for negligence if they breach one of the regulations and that breach causes injury or death. However, it is important to note that if the pool owner is a municipal entity, they may be granted immunity from liability.
Is There a Time Limit for Me to File My Premises Liability Claim?
Yes. Under South Carolina law, an injured party must commence their legal action within three years from the date the injured party knew or should have known about the cause of action. You will want to make sure you file your claim within this time limit or it may be barred from being heard. In the event the public pool is at a park or somehow owned by a governmental entity, your time limit would actually be two years.
What Damages Could I Recover From a Swimming Pool Accident Claim?
As with other personal injury cases, if you successfully prevail on a pool accident claim, you may be entitled to a mix of the following damages: medical expenses, loss of income and future earning potential, pain and suffering, or wrongful death. You will want to keep copies of any medical bills and prescriptions you receive as a result of any injury. If you are suing a private party, you may also want to initiate a third party claim against his or her homeowner’s insurance policy.
Consult a South Carolina Premises Liability Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been injured at a public or private swimming pool in Greenville, contact the skilled premises liability lawyers in SC of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. today for a consultation. Our experienced attorneys will help you evaluate the merits of your claim to improve the chances that you receive the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.