California is known for its sunny, warm climate. Because of this, there are many public and residential pools throughout San Diego and Southern California. However, pools can be dangerous, especially for children. According to the California Department of Developmental Services, drowning is the leading cause of death among children under five years old.
If your child was injured or killed in a swimming pool drowning, it may have been caused by the negligence of the pool owner. You need the help of an experienced child injury lawyer who will fight for the justice and compensation your family deserves.
Common Causes of Child Drownings
Because of the inherent dangers of pools, California has enacted rules to protect children and adults from drowning accidents. However, many preventable accidents occur when homeowners and public pool owners fail to follow these rules.
The regulations that must be followed are different for residential and public pools. Homeowners are required to have at least two of these seven safety precautions:
- A removable mesh fencing with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching
- A pool covering that meets specific standards
- An exit alarm on any doors that allow direct access to the swimming pool
- A self-closing and self-latching device that is no lower than 54 inches above the floor on any doors allowing direct access to the pool
- An alarm that will go off when there is an unauthorized entry in the water
- An enclosure that meets the requirements of California’s Swimming Pool Safety Act
- Other safety measures that meet or exceed these safety rules
There are many more rules that public swimming pool owners must follow. They have to comply with extensive standards regarding placement of electrical outlets, use of slip-resistant materials, water quality, handrails, signs, enclosures, inspections, and much more.
Not all child swimming pool drownings are caused by violations of California’s pool safety rules. They are also caused by other negligent actions of private and public pool owners, such as:
- No fencing. Many pool drownings occur when there is no fencing enclosing the pool or locked gates. This is especially dangerous for children who often will not recognize the risks the pool poses.
- Lack of warning signs. Some pool accidents are caused when owners fail to post warning signs of possible dangers, such as the depth of the water.
- Drain entrapment. Swimmers—especially children—can get their legs, arms, hair, or other body parts caught in an improperly covered drain or suction outlet and drown.
- Lack of water clarity. If the water’s chemical balance is not proper or maintenance is not performed, the water can become murky and hide small children who are drowning and who could otherwise be rescued.
- Negligent supervision. Private and public pool owners have a duty to supervise children swimming in their pools. Many tragic accidents occur when there is no supervision or a lifeguard is inattentive or improperly trained to handle swimming emergencies.
- Missing depth markers. When there are no depth markers or they are faded, children can inadvertently cross into the deep end without realizing it. They can quickly drown if they do not have the swimming skills to swim in deeper water.
- Inadequate maintenance. All pool owners have a duty to maintain their pools and pool decks. When they fail to perform routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs of their pools, the pools can become dangerous and lead to a drowning accident.
- Defects in the pool. Some drownings are caused by defects in the design or manufacture of the pool. If this is a cause of a child’s injuries or death, the parts and pool manufacturer could be liable to compensate the victim in a product liability claim.
Types of Compensation a Victim Can Recover
Children who are victims of a pool drowning can suffer permanent disabilities, such as traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and seizures, due to the lack of oxygen to their brains during the drowning. They are entitled to compensation for their injuries from the negligent party that caused their injuries. Damages that can be recovered include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and future lost earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death damages (if the child died in the drowning)
Special Rules You Must Follow When Settling Your Child’s Claim
You will need to follow special procedures when you settle your child’s claim with the insurance company. In California, you are required to obtain court approval of the settlement if your child is a minor. This procedure is referred to as a compromise of a minor claim.
A judge must approve the settlement whether you reach an out-of-court settlement or one entered into after a lawsuit is filed. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that your child’s rights are protected. When approving the agreement, the court will also impose strict requirements on where your child’s money must be deposited and how it can be spent.
If you reach an out-of-court settlement, you would need to file a petition with the court in the county where your child lives. The procedure is slightly different if you filed a lawsuit. The judge in your civil case would appoint a guardian ad litem, which is a person who would look out for the child’s interest. The guardian ad litem would file the petition seeking court approval by the judge handling the lawsuit.
Contact a Child Injury Lawyer Today
If your child was injured or killed in a pool drowning, I am here to help you hold the pool owner and any other liable parties accountable to compensate your child and your family for your injuries. I will collect the evidence you need to win your child’s case and aggressively fight with the insurance company so your child receives all the compensation they deserve. I also understand the special procedures you will need to follow to obtain court approval of your child’s settlement. Call my San Diego office today to schedule your free consultation to learn more about how I can assist you.