In May 2017, four Georgia children drowned in public pools. One of them was a 3-year-old boy from Forsyth County. Another child from Forsyth County nearly drowned in a neighborhood pool where there were other people nearby. It is being referred to by authorities as a “witnessed drowning.” Fortunately, after being in critical condition and on life-support, the child recovered. It is still not known whether or not he will have long-term consequences.
Also in May, an adult woman swimming in a hotel pool in Bremen was rescued by a 9-year-old girl, Ellie Austin, who is being dubbed a superhero. The two did not know each other and were the only two people in the pool at the time. At first, Ellie thought the woman was doing the “dead-man’s float” since she was face down in the water. When Ellie thought the woman had been in that position for too long, she flipped the woman over, dragged her to the pool stairs and ran inside for help. Ellie is being credited for saving the woman’s life.
Every year, more than 7,000 people drown in the U.S alone. Drowning is the leading cause of death and injury to children under the age of 5. Additionally, 5,000 children under the age of 14 are hospitalized for near drowning events. At least 20 percent of those suffer “severe, permanent neurological disability” due to their brain having been deprived of oxygen while they were under water. Another 15 percent of those who are hospitalized die a few days later of their injury.
Most drowning or near-drowning victims were only out of sight for approximately five minutes. That may not seem very long, but it is essentially a given that if a person is under water and deprived of oxygen for five minutes, even if resuscitated, he or she will have long-term neurological deficits. The question is how severe the damage will be.
Some survivors have life-long respiratory or cardiovascular problems. Some suffer from memory loss, learning disabilities and/or paralysis. Many slip into permanent vegetative states and their lives and the lives of their families are never the same.
It is not easy to collect fair and adequate compensation from the pool owner for your child’s or loved one’s loss. If you or a loved one have suffered such a loss, you need to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before taking any action yourself.
Drowning or Near Drowning in a Public Pool: Premises Liability and Negligence
The Georgia Department of Public Health’s regulations concerning public pools only applies to some counties. Other counties and cities have more restrictive rules and regulations. Under a premises liability of recovery, the owner of a public pool, even one operated by a municipality, may be liable for damages if there were not adequate warnings around the pool, there was no safety equipment or alarms, or there was simply a lack of supervision.
The pool owner may not be liable if the swimmer ignored obvious signs that were easily readable. A swimmer assumes the risk of harm if he or she ignores “swim at your own risk” signs, or ones that say “No lifeguard on duty.” However, if the injured person is a child, the expectation that the child assumed the risk is lessened.
Many drowning accidents occur in full view of adults who are supposedly supervising their children or generally observing swimmers. The observer or supervisor may be reading a book, answering the phone, or checking Facebook. When people drown, they generally do so quietly. Some indications that a person in the water, whether a child or adult is drowning are:
- There is no screaming or calling for help since the person is bobbing up and down just trying to catch a breath.
- There is no flailing of arms since the person’s arms automatically go to their side as they try to push themselves up and out of the water.
- There is no wild kicking of the legs. They are struggling to push themselves up out of the water and their legs remain straight down.
- The person does not look like they are drowning. They appear to be looking up at the sky as they try to keep their head above water.
These signs are easy to miss. Drowning happens very fast and often happens right in front of the designated observer.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
If your loved one drowned in a public pool, or suffered long-term neurological injuries due to a near drowning incident, contact Georgia Trial Attorneys, for a free case evaluation.