Florida — Accidental drownings pose the single biggest threat to young children in Florida. Parents are urged to keep their children in sight at all times around water this summer. Authorities say that losing sight of your children for even a moment around water could result in disaster.
These warnings come in the wake of two drownings in residential pools in Manatee County.
In one case, a mother found her 3-year-old boy at the bottom of their backyard pool. Another discovered her 11-month-old girl floating in a pool.
According to Florida’s Department of Health, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14 in the state and the leading cause of death in children ages 1 – 4.
While Florida leads the nation in child drowning deaths, in 2006, thirty-eight drowning deaths were reported in Miami-Dade County alone. Those statistics only reflect drowning deaths. Many more people, usually children, suffer catastrophic injuries such as cerebral anoxia or hypoxia (brain damage) each year as a result of near drowning incidents.
Many people have also suffered crippling spinal cord injuries from diving into pools, lakes or canals with inadequate warnings or which were not adequately maintained.
Accidental drownings may occur in lakes, canals, oceans, swimming pools, hot tubs / spas and even in bath tubs. Many drownings occur because of defective pool pumps or drains which can result in suction entrapment or because of poorly maintained fences or gates.
The phrase “suction entrapment” refers to the situation where a bather, usually a child, becomes stuck to a pool drain and held under water by the increased suction that is created when a drain is blocked by the bather’s body, hair or clothing. The force of that suction is often strong enough to hold an adult under water; however, it is usually children who fall victim to suction entrapment. Spa and hot tub drains pose the same risk. Suction entrapment incidents are generally caused by defective pool pumps, aging, broken, loose or missing drain covers and poorly designed pools.
There are several safety tips that, if followed can help prevent accidental drownings. They include:
1). Pool fences – Four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates, should be installed around home pools and spas. Fencing should completely surround swimming pools or spas and prevent direct access from a house or yard.
2). Never leave a child unsupervised in or around any body of water, even for a moment.
3). Enroll children in swimming lessons taught by a certified instructor, but don’t assume swimming lessons make your child “drown proof.”
4). Never dive into water less than nine feet deep.
5). Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (“PFD”) or life jacket when boating, near open bodies of water or when participating in any water sports. Air-filled swimming aids, such as “water wings,” are not considered safety devices and are not substitutes for PFDs.
6). Make use of pool alarms which sound an alert when someone enters the water.
When defective pools, defective pool pumps or defective pool drains cause death or serious injury, the product manufacturer, pool contractor or installer along with the product distributors and pool maintenance companies may be held liable under Florida’s Product Liability laws.
The owners of private or public swimming pools have a legal duty to maintain the pools, pool fences, gates, locks, pool pumps and drains in a reasonably safe condition and to take such other reasonable steps to protect against foreseeable risks such as suction entrapment or accidental drownings.
The owners and operators of public pools, pools in private homes, apartment complex pools and condo association pools usually have liability insurance which covers them for personal injury or wrongful death claims arising out of their negligent failure to take necessary precautions to prevent accidental drownings.
At Hannon Legal Group, we handle drowning and near drowning cases where the failure of pool owners to take reasonable safety precautions resulted in death or serious injury.