Memorial Day, and the unofficial beginning of summer, is just around the corner. Summer means hot dogs, lemonade, ice cream, swimming pools, and swimming pool injuries. In 2017, only four other states had more swimming pool drownings than Georgia. These incidents are just the most newsworthy related serious pool injuries. There are others as well. Some of them are outlined below.
Damages in a swimming pool injury case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Typically, a Marietta personal injury attorney settles these claims out of court. In many cases, this settlement occurs before court paperwork is even filed. In other situations, a personal injury case may go several months, or even longer, before it settles. There are a lot of variable involved.
Types of Incidents
Unintentional drowning is the leading cause of death for children under 4. It’s among the leading causes of death in other age groups as well. Children are especially susceptible to drowning deaths because their bodies are so small. After just a few seconds without oxygen, the brain begins shutting down internal organs. Children simply have more to lose than adults.
Chemical burns are a serious problem as well. Swimming pool cleaning chemicals, like chlorine, are incredibly toxic. If the chlorine level is even a bit too high, many people, especially children, could sustain chemical burns in their eyes, ears, noses, and throats. These painful injuries are difficult to treat.
Sometimes, the issue is a lack of chemicals. Usually because they are afraid of chemical burns, many pool owners do not put enough cleaning chemicals in the water. As a result, dangerous bacteria flourishes, especially as the water warms later in the summer.
Finally, the pool’s equipment may not be working properly. Two of the most common equipment problems are:
- Chlorine Gas: When chlorine mixes with water, it forms a toxic cloud. As long as the pump is working properly, this gas is not an issue. But if the pump is not working right, chlorine gas builds up in the pipe, and eventually, it leaks out.
- Swimming Pool Drain: Since the pump also delivers fresh water into the pool, drains keep the water level from becoming dangerously high. If the drains are not set properly, they cause dangerous undercurrents and riptides. Young children do not strand a chance against these powerful and invisible water flows.
If the product was defective, the manufacturer may be liable for damages as a matter of law. If the equipment was safe, but the owner failed to properly maintain it, the owner may be liable for damages.
Your Claim for Damages
To obtain damages against a pool owner, the victim/plaintiff must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). The level of care depends on the relationship between the victim and property owner.
- Invitee: An invitee is a person who has permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits the owner. Apartment tenants and hotel guests are invitees, because they provide an economic benefit. Party guests and usually invitees as well, because the owner receives a noneconomic benefit. If the victim was an invitee, the owner has a duty of reasonable care. That’s one of the highest legal responsibilities in Georgia law.
- Licensee: Licensees have permission to be on the land, but there is no benefit. A guest of a hotel guest is usually an invitee. Owners must warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects, like a non-working pool drain.
- Trespassers: If there was no permission and no benefit, the owner usually has no duty. The attractive nuisance doctrine is one of the major exceptions to this rule. A dangerous place where children often play, like a swimming pool, is an attractive nuisance. In these situations, the owner has a duty of reasonable care.
Sometimes, the law sets the standard of care. Georgia law has very rigid pool safety standards. For example, private pools must have safety fences that completely surround the water and a self-latching gate which operates from the pool side. If the pool violated these standards, and the violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury, the owner may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Obstacles to Fair Compensation
In both ordinary negligence and negligence per se cases, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the owner had actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) about the defect or hazard. So, lack of knowledge is a very common defense.
Sometimes, there is a “smoking gun” which proves actual knowledge. An unpaid repair invoice or a government safety inspection report is a good example. In constructive knowledge cases, most Cobb County courts use the time-notice rule. If the hazard or defect existed for a long time, the owner should have known about it.
The assumption of the risk defense also comes up in many premises liability claims, including swimming pool injury cases. This affirmative defense if the victim/plaintiff:
- Voluntarily assumed
- A known risk.
Swimming in a pool is almost always a voluntary act, unless someone throws another person into the pool. A known risk, however, is a different story. Many victims have limited reading and/or English skills. They cannot read a sign like “No Lifeguard on Duty.” Or, they may not be able to understand what it means. Additionally, non-drowning injuries, like chemical burns, are never a known risk. No one expects to go swimming and be exposed to chlorine gas.
Work with an Experienced Lawyer
Swimming pool injury victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.