Pool days are an essential part of summer, especially in Louisiana’s blazing heat. There is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than basking in the cold, clear water of your pool or making friends at the local public pool. But fun days in the water can turn dangerous or even deadly within seconds if the right safety precautions aren’t taken. And when they do, how do you know who is responsible?
The first risk brought to mind by swimming pools is always drowning, but you can sustain several other possible injuries while at a pool. Common accidents include diving board injuries, lacerations and broken bones, slip and fall injuries and even electrocution. Homeowners’ insurance companies and the legal system refer to swimming pools as “attractive nuisances” due to their ability to fascinate and draw in children who want to play. And pool accidents, including drowning, often turn into tragedy despite being highly preventable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ten people drown unintentionally every day. Louisiana is fourth in the country for child drownings, with an alarming 60% increase from 2019 to 2020. The regularity of children drowning in a pool is not all that surprising when you consider that a person under 30 pounds who doesn’t know how to swim can drown in 30 seconds. And survivors of pool accidents (commonly head injuries and near-drownings) can experience long-term damage such as learning and memory problems, internal organ trauma and even brain death.
Pool Safety Requirements and Laws
Pool accidents often happen and dissolve into chaos so quickly that it can be difficult to figure out who is liable for them. Each case is different, whether you are in your pool, a friend’s pool, or the local health club. Like many other states, Louisiana has focused on prevention by adopting the International Pool and Spa Code, which details strict guidelines that public and private pools must follow by law. Here are some of the requirements, which every pool built after 2015 must meet – and in some cases, those built prior must be retro-fitted for compliance.
- A fence must enclose any completely in-ground pool (and some above-ground pools)
- Outdoor hot tubs and spas must have a fence or cover
- All fences must be a minimum of four feet high (and any fence higher must have a permit)
- Any door or window in the home leading straight to the pool must have an alarm; otherwise, the pool must have a cover
- Any object that would help a child climb the fence must be kept away from it
- Pool gates must be self-latching and self-closing
- Public pool drains must be unblockable and covered in accordance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGB)
The VGB went into effect in 2008 and was designed to prevent injuries or death from suction entrapment, which occurs when body parts or objects worn by a swimmer get suctioned into drains. The law’s namesake died in 2002 after she became trapped at the bottom of a spa due to its suction.
Who Can Be Liable for Pool Injuries?
The attractive nuisance doctrine assigns possible liability to the homeowner given certain conditions. The conditions include the homeowner knew there was a chance children would go onto their property and that a pool is dangerous, the children harmed are too young to understand why it’s dangerous, and that the homeowner failed to take proper precautions to guard it. Thus, homeowners would be at fault even if the child trespassed into their pool without their knowledge.
Insurance companies are just as strict about pools and liability, whether that pool is public or private. Most standard homeowners’ insurance covers medical bills or death suffered by someone at your pool only up to the relatively small amount of $100,000, which is why pool owners are strongly encouraged to purchase additional liability insurance. Your rates will also go up, but that is the price for a pool that adds fun and value to your home.
Public pool operators must also act reasonably to prevent pool accidents and have additional safety equipment at the ready, such as life preservers or a hook that could be used to pull someone to safety. In addition, lifeguards are required at all times, and they must be “poised and ready” for immediate rescue action.
Homeowners and businesses alike can also invest in premises liability insurance for their pools, which is generally different from general liability and refers specifically to harm done to someone on the property due to failed maintenance of that property. It is often referred to as “slip and fall” insurance.
Pool injuries and drownings can leave families in stressful and traumatic situations. It’s vital to have a knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury lawyer in your corner to help determine who is liable. The attorneys at Herman Herman & Katz understand the emotional and financial strain of these types of cases and will fight to get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Call us at 844-943-7626 for a free review of your case, or contact us online to get started.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.
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