Drowning Accident Attorneys in Riverside and Orange County
The legal explanation of drowning is any death that occurs when a victim’s respiratory system is impaired by water. A near-drowning occurs when a person experiences a drowning event involving severe water inhalation and unconsciousness, however, survives with serious injuries, complications and possibly postponed death. Those who suffer a near-drowning can face extensive medical expenses and treatment, and at least half of those who experience a near-drowning will require prolonged hospitalization. Many of these near-drowning victims will have permanent injuries, including brain injury and physical impairments.
The Center for Disease Control reported 3,308 United States drownings in 2004—an average of nine people per day. In the years since that particular statistic, on average about ten people drown in the United States each day, resulting in drowning ranking fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Half of those who survive will suffer a significant level of neurological impairment, leaving them with highly uncertain futures. Children under five and those between the ages of 15-24 have the highest drowning rates, and one-fifth of all children who drown do so in a public pool with a lifeguard on duty.
In fact, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between the ages of one and four. Often times, negligence for the care of individuals at a location can be the cause of drowning, whether a child or an adult. The most common factors related to drownings in the United States include:
- Negligence on the part of pool or water park owners;
- Open water or easily accessible pools with no fencing;
- Dangerous surf conditions in the ocean;
- Gender (males are more likely to drown than females);
- Age (the young are more likely to be drowning victims);
- Swimming ability;
- Swimming in rivers, ponds, and lakes;
- Failure to wear a life jacket;
- No lifeguards or inexperienced lifeguards on duty;
- Lack of adult supervision;
- Alcohol impairment, and
- Medical disorders.
Drowning accidents often occur when least expected, during a fun day with friends or poolside on vacation and it’s important that you always take the proper precaution. At Greenberg & Greenberg, we have the experience and background necessary to investigate if negligence played a role in your or your loved ones’ drowning accident.
Why Are There So Many Drownings?
Accidents involving water can be both terrible and deadly. Water accidents and drownings occur in water parks, motels or hotels, private pools, lakes, rivers or ponds. These tragedies can be the result of lack of necessary supervision, sheer negligence in the form of faulty gates, drains or other hazards, or can occur when a victim enters an area which was meant to be restricted. Although many people believe that children who drown are not being closely supervised, statistics show that 70 percent of the preschoolers who drown are in the care of one or both parents—and were missing from sight for less than five minutes. These facts prove just how quickly such a tragedy can occur.
Safety Recommendations for Home Pools
Drownings can occur in many different places, including: commercial pools, community pools, personal swimming pools, hotel, motel and resort pools, pools at an apartment or condo, pools at a public or private school, gym pools, homeowner association pools, campground pools, bathtubs, hot tubs, wading pools and in landscaping water features. Because the vast majority of drownings occur in backyard pools, there are specific safety recommendations in place for pool owners. First and foremost, property owners with a pool on their property are required to have a four-sided isolation fence which is a minimum of five feet high surrounding their pool. The fence must possess self-closing and self-latching gates and must prevent direct access. Additionally, many pool owners go the extra mile and install motion detectors, pool covers which prevent access and remote cameras to ensure the safety of neighborhood children.
Proving Negligence in a Drowning
Grieving parents are often desperate to find answers as to why their child is gone, and may also want to prove negligence in order to ensure other parents never experience such heartbreak, however, a wrongful death claim involving a drowning can be difficult to pursue. Essential to proving liability are the facts surrounding the incident, and, as we all know, memories fade rapidly and physical evidence can be quickly destroyed. This is the primary reason to hire an experienced California drowning attorney immediately following the accident to ensure a proper investigation is conducted.
Responsibility for Safety
It is generally accepted that a resort, park or public pool has a responsibility to keep their visitors safe, and if it can be proven that officials or owners were irresponsible in this duty and death or accident occurred as a result, then negligence is established. It may also be that the lifeguard was not paying attention or performing his or her job in a responsible manner, also resulting in a claim of negligence. Private pool owners also have a duty to implement safety measures to ensure that small children cannot gain access to the pool, precipitating an accident. While no amount of money can ever compensate for the life of a loved one, there are drowning cases and water accidents which warrant the pursuit of civil actions against the negligent parties. It is also imperative that an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable regarding drowning accidents be involved in the process as this is a highly focused area.
California Laws Regarding Drowning Accidents
Under California negligence laws, a property owner, lifeguard or supervisor could be liable for a drowning accident. In order to recover damages, it must be shown that the defendant owed you or your loved one duty of care, that this duty of care was breached through negligence and that this negligence was a significant factor in causing the injuries or death. Typically, drowning accident lawsuits are filed against property owners under premises liability laws of the state. Those who have water features on their property owe the public a duty of care to keep the property well-maintained, warn of any dangerous conditions, and repair any dangerous conditions when the condition becomes known or should have reasonably been known.
Drowning accidents can potentially be caused by the inattentiveness of daycare employees, babysitters, supervisors, lifeguards or other persons who were charged with watching the child. Under California’s Respondeat Superior laws, an employer can be held “vicariously” liable for his or her employee’s negligence. In some instances, drowning can be the result of the intentional or clearly reckless actions of another person, such as in a boating accident resulting from the over-consumption of alcohol, or a situation in which a fight ensues, and a drowning occurs because of the fight. Drownings can also occur in a water park, due to negligence. The person responsible for the accident could also be the manufacturer of a water slide or other water feature, another person at the park who is recklessly using a water slide, or a water park employee. If a person is killed in a water park accident, the family may choose to file a wrongful death claim to hold the responsible parties accountable.
Can You File a Lawsuit if You Signed a Waiver for Your Child?
If a minor—under the age of 18 signs a waiver, it would generally not be considered legally enforceable, however, if a parent or guardian signed the liability waiver on behalf of the child, and a drowning accident occurred, the parent might be prevented from filing a drowning accident claim. In some cases, while a jury would determine whether the drowning accident was covered under the liability waiver, the jury could find that the waiver does not apply if the accident and subsequent injuries or death were due to gross negligence, recklessness, illegal activities or intentional harm.
How Drowning Accident Attorneys from Greenberg & Greenberg Can Help
The attorneys at Greenberg & Greenberg have extensive experience in representing children who have been injured, either purposely or accidentally. Elan Zektser has had the unique experience of actually going to drowning accident scenes and assisting law enforcement with the investigation of the drowning. Additionally, Elan Zektser has worked for hand and hand with Medical Pathologists to assist in the ultimate conclusion of Cause of Death (COD). While no amount of money can ever compensate for the life of a loved one, there are drowning cases and water accidents which warrant the pursuit of legal actions against the negligent parties. If you or a loved one has suffered significant injuries or death due to a drowning accident, call the drowning attorneys at Greenberg & Greenberg to discuss your options moving forward.